According to the 2007-2012 U.S. Census Bureau, 16 percent of people in St. Joseph County earn income below the poverty level. In South Bend, that statistic jumps to a staggering 26.3 percent, which is 12 percent higher than the national average. Government programs exist to help those in poverty, but Aaron Schavey, Ph.D., associate professor of economics at Bethel College, thinks there’s a better way.

“I think the system is broken. I think the church and individuals can do more. Through forming relationships with people, through empowering them, we can get them to work; we can get them out of poverty,” Schavey says.

This is the catalyst behind the Repair Rebuild Restore Conference, which will take place Oct. 2 and 3 at 7 p.m. in the Everest-Rohrer Chapel/Fine Arts Center – Auditorium.

Made possible through a grant from the Koch Foundation and sponsored by the Bethel College business department, the conference seeks to help attendees gain a greater understanding of the causes of poverty, learn effective ways to respond to poverty and give them practical steps to help those in need.

The conference, which is free and open to the public, will begin Oct.2 with keynote speakers Jay Richards, Ph.D., senior fellow and director of the Center on Wealth, Poverty and Morality at Discovery Institute and Anne Bradley, Ph.D., vice president of economic initiatives, Institute for Faith, Work and Economics. They will speak on “Why Good Intentions Aren’t Enough,” and “Why Does Income Inequality Exist?”

On Oct. 3, Amy Sherman, Ph.D., senior fellow at the Sagamore Institute for Policy Research, will speak on “Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good.” The conference will conclude with a nonprofit panel, “What Do Effective Solutions Look Like?” following Sherman’s talk.

“The panel will focus on asset-based intervention, the idea of viewing those in poverty as individuals with talents, skills, resources and potential. It will also focus on the importance of building relationships and offering opportunities for rehabilitation and development, not just providing emergency relief to the poor,” Schavey says.

The hope is that people will come away from the conference with practical application for using their jobs, skills and talents to empower the poor in their community.

In conjunction with the conference, Bethel’s career services office is hosting a Service and Action Fair from 9:30 a.m.11:30 a.m. on Oct. 2, the day Richards will be speaking to students in chapel at 10 a.m.

Twenty-five nonprofit organizations are scheduled to participate, setting up tables in the Great Hall of Everest-Rohrer to showcase volunteer and internship opportunities. Following the fair, career services is hosting a luncheon to bless the nonprofits that attend and provide a networking opportunity for Bethel’s administration, faculty, staff and student groups.

“We want to get students to sign up for internships and to volunteer with these organizations,” Schavey says. It’s part of a greater effort through the career services office to get students invested in the Michiana community.

For more information about the conference or to sign up to attend, visit