An Opportunities for Otsego event this weekend aims to better unite the community to assist those living in poverty.

The first Opportunity Conference will be held Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Holiday Inn in Oneonta* and is open to anyone living in the city school district. Attendees will be matched up with volunteer “navigators” and participate in workshops through the day.

Funding for the event has come from the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative, according to OFO Chief Executive Officer Daniel Maskin.

“It's not only to help poorer people, but also recognize we're all part of the same community,” Maskin said.

About 30 volunteers have signed on to be navigators, and about half already work with OFO, he said. The goal is to network with program recipients to help access resources and supports to stay out of poverty. Those supports can be as simple as arranging a free or discounted haircut from a barber in the community.

“There are a lot of little things that families may need,” Maskin said. For more complicated issues, some OFO supervisors will be trained to help as specialty navigators.

The event will be facilitated by Donna Beegle, a public speaker who grew up in generational migrant-labor poverty before pursuing an education at the age of 25. Maskin said Beegle's topics will include her own story, addressing pitfalls in dealing with poverty and listening skills.

Free childcare will be provided at the event, and free transportation is available if needed. Food and drinks will be served, and attendees will all receive gift bags and have chances to win prizes.

Some of the most-utilized OFO programs include the Head Start preschool program, the homeless shelter and safe house, the domestic violence advocacy program and the Women, Infants and Children program, according to Maskin.

Erin Jerome, staff writer, may be reached at (607) 441-7221, or at ejerome@thedailystar.com . Follow her on Twitter at @DS_ErinJ .

*changed at 2:11 p.m. May 10 to correct the location of the event.

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