I don't know how many of you read the cover story called "Poverty's Widening Grasp" in Sunday's Ledger, but that article and related stories in the first section, along with my own engagement with the topic is causing me to share this with you.
Through my son, I have become familiar with federal, state, and local assistance programs and what they will do and what they won't do. The articles pointed out some faith-based and civic-based assistance programs as well. No matter what assistance program is established, there are parameters for who and how it can help to give it definition for filling a need and funding that need.
According to a 2013 U.S. Census Bureau survey, Florida is ranked 38th out of all 50 states in income, behind states like Michigan and Ohio, and 19.3% of Polk County residents have income levels within the poverty guidelines. Those guidelines indicate that $11,490 and below is considered a poverty wage for an individual, $15,510 for a couple, and $27,570 for a family of five.
I think these figures should give all of us pause.
So, how can we respond as people of faith? We certainly can pray, and pray for systems to be more just where they are not, and pray for individuals who are able to work to find a job that will help support his/her or family needs. We also can listen and be attentive to the expressed needs of those around us, (hence this blog post because I listened to what the writers were trying to communicate to Polk County through the article.) And we can take action by helping to meet needs.
I learned about KidsPack earlier this year through one of our parish families and we partnered together this past weekend to volunteer at a packing site here in Lakeland. All that is required of individuals is to show up at a packing site at the advertised time and spend about 30 - 45 minutes helping to assemble food items on a tray which will then be delivered to children in our local area. Silvia Yordan and her children Kevin and Nicole helped me along with about a dozen volunteers to pack 146 food trays this past Saturday afternoon at Highland Park Church of the Nazarene. Each child (who has been determined to have a need) will receive 2 food trays which will be sent home with them for the weekend. At that packing site, they create food trays every other Saturday throughout the school year and currently they provide food trays for students at Carlton Palmore, Cleveland Court, Highland Grove, McKeel Central, Oscar J. Pope, South McKeel, and Valley View. These are schools where our children go to school. The little bit of labor that Silvia, Kevin, Nicole, and I did on Saturday is literally feeding our neighbors. Perhaps more of us can get involved in this particular service to the community, or perhaps we can be more attentive to opportunities that come before us to help share out of our abundance?
May God's Spirit continue to guide you to love your neighbor as yourself.