Corvallis panel to talk after showing of documentary

The country’s recession affected people who had never experienced poverty before, hitting them with house foreclosures, unemployment and food insecurity.

The economy may be recovering, Community Services Consortium executive director Martha Lyon said, but it’s not reaching the middle class.

“Even in the midst of plenty, in the midst of Corvallis, there is poverty, but it doesn’t always show,” Lyon said. “You don’t wear need on your sleeve like a badge. Everyone who is poor is trying to hide it.”

That is one lesson that Lyon hopes participants will take with them after watching the documentary, “American Winter,” and sitting in on a follow-up panel discussion about the face of poverty in Linn and Benton counties.

SCS, a nonprofit that delivers an array of social service programs to people of Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties, is providing the free screening at Oregon State University’s LaSells Stewart Center from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday.

“American Winter,” which premiered on HBO in March, follows eight Portland-area families as they try to navigate through job losses, foreclosures and medical issues during the recession.

Harry Gantz, who produced the film with his brother, Joe Gantz, said that while making the film, he was surprised by the number of everyday, hard-working people who live in poverty.

“The stock market is getting better, and people are starting to buy cars, but there is still a huge portion of our country that are barely surviving,” he said in a phone interview.

Harry Gantz has spent the past six months promoting the film to raise awareness and advocate for services and policies to help those who are struggling financially.

“Hopefully this screening in Corvallis will draw local political leaders, students, social service workers and some of people they serve,” he said. “That’s what we hope these events are ... because it (poverty) is happening in every community.”

Panelists will include Corvallis Mayor Julie Manning, OSU sociology professor Mark Edwards and 211 operator Emily Berndt.

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Reporter ​Canda Fuqua can be reached at 541-758-9548 or canda.fuqua@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @CandaFuqua.