Francine Pratt fixes things. It’s what she’s always done and continues to do as director of Prosper Springfield coordinating over 300 organizations toward community betterment goals including bolstering the workforce and assisting those in a financial crisis.
“I am a trouble shooter and try to align systems to make things work more practical,” she says.
Prosper Springfield was created in March 2017 in response to the Impacting Poverty Commission Report. Pratt was hired as director a month later, bringing with her experience in leadership roles at Isabel’s House and Missouri State University. She also has owned several businesses, currently Pratt Consultants LLC, assisting businesses with community engagement, strategic planning and process re-engineering.
“People call me ‘the fix-it person,’” Pratt says.
Through Prosper Springfield, she aims to increase post-secondary attainment to 60 percent by 2025. Pratt says that Springfieldians are working, just not earning wages “to sustain the basics in life.”
“We have jobs, we just don’t have the skill sets for the jobs,” she says. “There’s a lot of new opportunities that people don’t know about because they are just trying to stay above water.”
Prosper Springfield’s second call to action: fighting poverty. But Pratt doesn’t like that word. She prefers “under-resourced” or “lower income.”
Springfield’s poverty rate was 25.7 percent in 2017, and Prosper Springfield’s goal is to reduce poverty by 5 percentage points by 2025.
Pratt’s motivation stems from her own story. She once was in situational poverty as a survivor of domestic violence.
“In a 24-hour period after getting out of the hospital, I had to take what I could get in my car, and get my kids and vacate the premises,” Pratt says, adding she had to flee the county to hide. “I had to start all over from scratch.”
Pratt says those two years showed her “poverty” can come in many forms. Although she was a top-level manager, she still struggled, but thankfully had connections that helped her get back on her feet.
“What about the person who doesn’t have those connections and that voice?” she asks.
At Prosper Springfield, she is that voice.
The congregation at Crossway Baptist Church is building a children’s wing at the west end of the church, and beginning in 2024, it will be home to a Christian academy.