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"Foundation of a Tighter Community"
President Obama is making a visit today to Fort Myers, the county seat and commercial center of Lee County, Florida. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, Lee County lost the highest percentage of jobs (8.8 percent) from June 2007 to June 2008 of all the counties in the US and its unemployment rate soared from 3.5 percent in March 2007 to 9.8 percent in November. Two months ago, the median home price in the Fort Myers area dropped to $106,900, compared to a peak of $322,300 in December 2005. Lee County is clearly one of the communities most afflicted by the recession, and as such, crime is on the rise and more people are going hungry.
There is an article from New York Times that gives a telling description of the pain experienced from the current economic crisis, with many ties to the issue of hunger.
It was encouraging to read about a group that formed in the Lehigh community called “Team Rescue”, which brings together churches, nonprofit groups, business owners, and representatives in an effort to fight the recession in an organized way as one community. Hunger is one of the chief concerns for the group, as organizations offering food have seen demand increase by as much as 75 percent in the last year. It’s no longer just the chronic poor who are seeking help.
Here’s a quote from the article that I found insightful: “Team Rescue, of which Faith Lutheran is a member, considers itself successful, not just because it has helped more families but also because organizers believe that the links they are forming will be the foundation of a tighter community.”
If we manage to work together in this time of difficulty, we can hope to create a new basis for cooperation and community engagement.
As Bread President Rev. Beckmann noted in a statement today, “Speed is of the essence” in providing support to the neediest families. “Investments in programs that put money in the hands of low-income people- like SNAP (food stamps) and unemployment benefits- generate more in economic stimulus than they cost.” Let’s hope that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed by the senate today will meet the needs of hungry families soon.
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