One of the best parts of representing my home of North Carolina in Congress is getting to welcome constituents and friends to our nation’s Capital and displaying the work we are doing on their behalf. This week, I was proud to welcome my good friend and fellow North Carolinian, Pastor Odell Cleveland.

Cleveland and I share a similar background, both of us having worked as executive/administrative pastors for mega-churches. But more than that, we share a passion for service and providing upward mobility to communities that have struggled with poverty.

Today, after 50 years of federal funding and expanding welfare programs, we are still far from winning the war on poverty. Right now, 14.8 percent of Americans live in poverty, including 16 million children. Despite Washington’s numerous efforts and programs, too many families are still forced to worry each day about their next meal or the roof over their head.

Thanks to the work of Cleveland and others like him, we have seen the transformative power of local, real solutions to heal our communities.

In North Carolina, Cleveland has served as an example of how important the right heart, tone, and spirit are when discussing sensitive issues like poverty and race. He continues to help me identify people in our community who are experts in areas of welfare reform, health care, hunger, and criminal justice reform, which are crucial pieces to combating overall poverty.

One of the things we can all learn from Cleveland is his unique and distinctive ability to build relationships with people from all walks of life, from all communities, from all backgrounds, and from all political parties. I believe it is a great testament to Cleveland’s character of how he has not limited his range of support but rather has remained multidimensional.

Right now, 14.8 percent of Americans live in poverty, including 16 million children.

At the same time, he has been able to build friendships that directly correlate with his ability to positively impact our community. He has led coalitions of innovation to identify problems, fill gaps, and directly answer people’s needs: whether that is helping a single mother gain employment, equipping young parents to strengthen their family, or uniting his church to provide for our local schools. If we want to find the best solutions for combating poverty, conservatives must be willing to the same. We must be willing to reach out to folks with different points of view and work to find common ground.

I am so pleased to have found a leader and a friend like Cleveland to share with a heart, vision, and goal for our community: to empower all people to reach their God-given potential and help lift our neighbors out of poverty. These are the types of things that transcend party affiliations because it’s important to remember that people should always come before politics.

Ultimately, the success of our welfare programs is not judged by the number of people who need them, but by the number of people who no longer need them. If Washington wants to solve this national problem, we should look to the local level.