The Northwest Project

A five-year project to pilot anti-poverty strategies in Springfield neighborhoods.

About the NWP

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Ten pivotal assets guide the program.

The Northwest Project is a five-year, $1.3 million collaborative effort to address poverty in Springfield’s Council Zone 1. The partnership, led by Missouri State University, the Drew Lewis Foundation and Drury University, began in April 2016 with the goal of piloting strategies to help families overcome the challenges that have kept them living in poverty and sustain their long-term success in emerging from those circumstances.

The Northwest Project is based at The Fairbanks, a community center in the Grant Beach neighborhood renovated by the Drew Lewis Foundation. Amy Blansit, director of the Drew Lewis Foundation and an MSU faculty member, is project manager. MSU is the overall fiscal agent and project administrator along with providing professional and student support through its programs in social work, kinesiology, education and others.

Sustainability Assets

These 10 assets have been termed the “10 Sustainability Assets” needed for economic mobility, sustainability, and self-sufficiency. Through the collaborative efforts of Prosper Springfield, a shared case management system is being adopted by nonprofits and service providers.

  • Affordable housing (housing representing no more than 30% of one’s total monthly budget)
  • Transportation (members have reliable transportation)
  • Quality childcare (children are enrolled in quality child care, before-school, or after-school programming as needed for children over two years old)
  • Parenting classes (where members have not participated in other similar classes for 3 years)
  • Resolution of criminal background (where applicable)
  • Accountability (such as attending required program and community resource meetings and engaging consistently in the program)
  • Job training
  • Taking advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit (attainment of EITC benefit & application of benefit to personal plan where applicable)
  • Monthly budget management (adhering to a budget, reducing debt and working on a credit score of 650)
  • Health and wellness (including access to healthcare and insurance)

The Northwest Project also tracks additional data points that help determine self-sufficiency, including:

  • Mental health access or needs
  • Relative level of support a household may have within their social networks
  • Food security
  • Home safety
  • Relative integration or connection to community resources

Project RISE

Through the Northwest Project, effective strategies for lifting families out of poverty have proven scalable and replicable in other communities. In 2018, the first Project RISE cohorts in Aurora and Salem formed, marking the first time Northwest Project programming was offered in rural communities. Programming has also started in El Dorado Springs and Marshfield.

Community Partners

The MSU/Drew Lewis/Drury partnership also includes a number of community agencies that provide resources related to these pivotal assets. These partners are: Ozarks Technical Community College, MU Extension, the City of Springfield, Springfield Community Gardens, Springfield Public Schools, Life 360 Family Services, Habitat for Humanity, Boys and Girls Club, Great Circle-Parenting Life Skills Center, Hand in Hand Multicultural Center, Care to Learn, Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association, Ozarks Regional YMCA, Schweitzer United Methodist Church Jobs for Life Program, Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association, City Utilities Community Credit Union, Southeast Rotary, Great Southern Bank, Central Bank and Trust Company, and many others.

Learn More

Families interested in learning more about The Northwest Project can contact the Drew Lewis Foundation at The Fairbanks at (417) 720-1890. Northwest Project programming is currently offered at the following neighborhood hubs in Springfield:

  • The Fairbanks
  • The Betty & Bobby Allison Springfield Dream Center
  • Ward Downtown YMCA

Regional cohorts are now forming in the following communities:

  • Aurora
  • El Dorado Springs
  • Marshfield
  • Salem

Ways to Partner with the Northwest Project

  • Northwest Project Ally (five to six hours a month): Serving as an intentional friend for a Northwest Project participant. Commitment includes reaching out to assigned participant weekly (through text, email, coffee, etc). An ideal candidate would attend a one-hour Northwest Project programming evening class twice a month.
  • Northwest Project Mentor (five to six hours a month): This involves working with children in our evening programming (reading, art projects, character training, etc.). This could be tailored toward your passions and expertise.
  • Springfield Connection (two to three hours a month): This is a program that connects a specific family in our program and their specific needs with you (or your group) to assist with unmet needs. Lists of family members, clothing sizes, and needs will be provided four times per year. By signing up for the program, you partner to meet the needs and wants of a family in whatever ways you are willing and able.
  • Specialized Skills (hours vary): If you have specialized skills you are interested in sharing (accounting, home repair, tutoring, lawn care, education/training, etc.) please let us know. These kinds of skills can often be a great fit into our programming if we know there is a desire to volunteer in a specialized way.
  • Weekly Volunteer Opportunities (three hours each): These volunteer opportunities happen weekly (four nights a week) and involve no ongoing commitment. Volunteers assist with programming setup, serving dinner, serving our youth in programming, and helping clean up. Volunteer opportunities can be found at by searching the Northwest Project.
  • Opportunities for Financial Contributions: The NWP is always open to additional funding contributions to help expand programming and its reach. If you have interest in financially contributing to this program and the work it is committed to, contact the Community Foundation of the Ozarks or the Drew Lewis Foundation for more details.
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