Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sometimes thirty seconds can show us a lot. If we open our minds and allow ourselves to see a different perspective for just a half a minute, sometimes we can understand another point of view or relate to another person’s struggles in ways we could not predict.

Everyone is affected by the increased cost of doing business and the increased cost of living. Increased expenses lessen our ability or willingness to give to others. I truly understand that. But this is something I want everyone to think about: it’s what I call the thirty second exercise. Think about a time when you’ve been forced to skip a meal. You’re running late for work so you don’t take time for breakfast. But you know it’s not devastating because you can make it up at lunch. Or you have a busier than normal day at work and just work right through lunch. You know you’ll make it up at supper. We’ve all been there from time to time, right?

 Now take thirty seconds to think about someone who skips a meal not because they choose to or because it might be convenient but because the food is not there and they do not know where the next meal will even come from. Try to put yourself in that mindset for just thirty seconds, and then realize that’s the reality many people in South Carolina face every minute of every day.

It’s hard for us to imagine hunger and food insecurity for even thirty seconds, but the reality for so many who struggle in our community is they live with constant hunger and doubt all the time. We can close our eyes and TRY to imagine what their fear must be like, but they in turn cannot just close their eyes and wish it away. They fear there will be no food on the table at each meal and wishing will not change that.

School is out across South Carolina, and financially strapped parents face the challenge of providing an additional two meals a day for their school-age children. Many are now forced to turn to us for a little additional help in providing food for their families. This creates a paradigm of need wherein struggling families find it more difficult to put food on the table and have to come to us, but the same economic forces that created their dire situation in turn increases our expenses and impacts our ability to meet their needs. 

Even before school let out we began to see an increase in the number of families coming to us. In May at our Emergency Food Pantries (EFP) on Shop Road and 12th Street in Cayce we served 5,739 families throughout the month, or 287 families a day. This was a 26% increase over the number of families we served in May last year. Over 12% of those coming in to the EFP’s reported they needed our assistance for the first time, and 52% reported that unemployment was the reason they were forced to come to us. If we project a similar increase throughout the summer once schools let out, then a 26% increase over last year will bring over 7,000 families per month to our doors. And that’s just in Columbia. We also provide for the struggling families in the Pee Dee and the Greenville/Laurens communities, plus more than 400 member agencies in our 20 county area-they are also experiencing increases in demand.

So how can Harvest Hope, caught up as we are in the cycle of the “paradigm of need”, hope to find the resources to meet the needs of so many families across South Carolina? We cannot hope to do it without the support of so many in the community.

Two generous families, the Mungos and the Cassels, have already helped by posting matching campaigns that kicked in $300,000 when private donors did their part. We have seen that people are more than willing to give when they know their contributions will be matched. We would love to find at least two more partners in the business community to follow the examples set by the Mungos and the Cassels and declare their own matching campaigns.

The spirit of philanthropy is infectious and inspires people to acts of generosity when they see their neighbors are moved to action. Help us create a new “paradigm of charitable acts,” and inspire the communities of South Carolina to recognize the suffering of hungry families and move to ensure they have food to put on their tables this summer.

With Blessings and Hope,
Denise Holland

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”  ~ Mother Theresa

I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything, but I can do something.  And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.  ~ Edward Everett Hale

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