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Leadership Tyler focusing on poverty; struggling families

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TYLER (KYTX) -- While you can't always walk a mile in someone's shoes, members of Leadership Tyler want to try.

"Seeing that they spend all their time and energy just trying to reach the end of the month, and making sure everything is going to be OK gives me a new perspective," James Wansley, a participant, said.

He's one taking part in a pretend family exercise that is going through hardships. "I was a 17 year-old, had a single mom, and two younger siblings. We had to figure out the system," Wansley said.

For him, it was an eye opener on what some people do to survive, even turning to crime. "For them, the ends justified the means. They didn't even think if it was going to be legal, it was just an option," Wansley said.

Organizers explain there are things that become headaches, like not being able to afford a car and having to get to work or take kids to school. "All the activities we do, people in poverty have to do those same things, like going to the doctor," Phyllis McMakin, with the Troup Community Food Pantry, said.

This demonstration, to show how hard it is just to get by, even when you're doing your best.

"They're going to be more empathetic to others that are coming to them for help," McMakin said.

Dennis Cullinane, Executive Director of the East Texas Food Bank, says the need to feed families is unfortunately growing.

"The rural communities is really where it gets challenging, because there's a lot of distance, and there seems to be less awareness," Cullinane said.

But thanks to groups like Leadership Tyler, there is motivation to raise awareness.

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