The afternoon is taxing, as more people come to sign in for assistance with some kind of crisis, and it's also a "dental day", so many of them are in obvious physical discomfort as they await their turn to apply to get a tooth pulled in the free dental clinic. It's Thanksgiving week, so many kids are out of school and playing loudly... being disruptive in their boredom, while parents ignore the chaos and keep waiting. Sleepy babies with wet and dirty diapers cry with hunger after sitting such a long time in the laps of mamas who just want to get through and go home. More than a few people appear uneasy in a room with so many who are talking about personal things that would be better left unsaid in public. An elderly woman tries to use her cane to get out of the chair when her name is called, but she's been sitting so long that it takes numerous tries to even move. More people are piling in the door, but have to stand because the seating is all taken. Minutes surely feel like hours as people wait to hear their name called.
I've just described today... a typical afternoon at the Share & Care office, where so many come for help of all kinds. Seasons change, but the people and problems remain the same, day in and day out all year long. Sadly, we here, are all too familiar with seeing and hearing problems that just seem to extend on for so many people. Lately, the faces have changed... and the stories are increasingly more difficult to hear. Tough decisions have to be made on our part, so that we can try to help everyone with at least SOMETHING. Right now, that SOMETHING for most of these people is FOOD - meat, milk, fresh fruits, eggs. How tragic it is... that in our United States of America... anyone should have to go through all of this to have some decent food for their families!
Ozark Share & Care is a unique community-sponsored social services program, in part because we generate the money necessary to maintain our mission. We have very worked hard over the years, to have the funds that we need... WITHOUT having to depend solely on cash donations that are sometimes slow to arrive. We are STILL doing just that, and even though the thrift store sales are somewhat down from last year, we manage to provide almost the same assistance as then. We now see a 27% increase in food requests... many of those first-time applicants... people who are desperate to hold onto jobs that are ending or being cut back. It seems that our community is now experiencing what others in our country have been living with for months.
We use our thrift store-generated funds to purchase food, medicines, and some special needs for children. Some families have been helped with laundry expenses and supplies, so that kids can go to school with clean clothes, and to help rid homes of lice, which, for some, is a never-ending plague. For now, we are virtually cutting out all other assistance, so that we can purchase a decent variety of food to give to parents whose jobs are at risk or already lost.
For the first time ever, given the economic situation in front of us all... we don't know what to expect during the next months, or what this holiday season will bring. As a group, our Executive Board was at a loss to make plans for what is bound to become a difficult time for Share & Care, as we attempt to address the needs of so many in our community.
Lately, every newspaper and nightly newscast across the country contains words of the plight of food programs like ours. In a country that has always had SO much, it is heartbreaking to know that people right here in our own state and town have such serious food insecurity. For all of us... making financial contributions in times of economic uncertainty is extremely challenging... but making sure that our neighbors have enough to eat is simply the RIGHT thing to do... NOW more than ever.
We live in a place of privilege - a remarkable community that CAN and DOES provide for its own. Our people have learned to work together... with enthusiasm... to make life better for all who live and work in this place. Here at Share & Care, we simply ask that you remain with us through these challenging times, and help us to feed as many families as we can possibly feed... with as much nourishing food as we can possibly offer. TOGETHER, I believe that we WILL make a difference right here!