I am an avid reader, and recently finished the wildly popular “Hunger Games” series, by Suzanne Collins. I’m a little surprised that these books are listed as “young adult”. At the age of 53, I personally found them to be intriguing. I read the series straight through in about a week’s time, and I am enthusiastically looking forward to the movie version’s release this spring (I guess that makes me “young at heart”, eh?).
As the director of an agency that serves hurting families in our community, including those without adequate food, I often think about parallels between books and movies that I see and our clientele. The very title of this series gave me something to think about…hunger games. In 2011, we filled over 4000 requests for help with food. That number represents over 4000 times that someone opened our door and told us that they did not have enough food for themselves, and their kids. That number represents thousands of pounds of beans, vegetables, pastas, rice,soups, and much more going out our door to those in need. That number represents many hours of effort on the part of our staff and faithful volunteers to collect, bring in, organize,bag up, and hand out one of life’s most basic necessities.
(NOTE: for a great article on hunger in America, be sure to read Marian Wright Edelman’s most recent article on the Huffington Post: http://tinyurl.com/7xh6xn7 )
That number also represents a lot of “hunger games” that our clients have to play, and believe me these games are not the fun kind, but rather are a process of quiet desperation. It means they have to decide whether to spend their meager income to keep the heat on, put food on the table, fill a needed prescription, or put a tank of gas in the car to keep from losing their job (or look for one). For many of our clients, they simply do not have enough means to cover all of the above, and have to figure out how to stretch scant resources and then find additional help from community sources to fill the gaps. It means figuring out which agencies provide what kind of help, and how much, and how often, and what hoops they have to jump through to get it.
There are other kinds of hunger that drive many of our clients. For women in our shelter, it is the hunger to find gainful employment that will enable them to move into their own housing again. For parents who use our Open Arms Child Care Center, it is the hunger to make sure their children have a safe, loving place to be while they are working hard at jobs or job training programs to help them make a better life for their families. For them, it is the hunger to know that their children are not just sitting in front of a video all day, but are being helped to achieve appropriate developmental benchmarks in order to flourish when they enter kindergarten and move on through their school years. For participants in our subsidized housing programs, it is the hunger to become self-sufficient and someday not have to rely on the kindness of strangers and housing programs to remain stable and independent. For some, it is the hunger to access the treatment and help they need to eliminate or at least manage daunting physical and mental health difficulties – to be free from debilitating pain, depression, and anxieties.
Our staff and board experience hunger as well. As much good work as we do here, we still find that there are many requests for assistance that we are forced to turn down, simply because our resources have already been spoken for. We hunger to expand and improve our services, so that we can help even more of the hurting families n our neighborhoods. We hunger for more days when a struggling client walks in with a radiant smile and announces that she “got the job!”. We hunger to see more joyful faces on the women and children who leave our shelter to move into their own apartment.
When you reach out and help our cause, whether it be a donation of food, a check to help defray the costs of our operations, or an hour of your time to help out, you are helping to stave off and even conquer the plethora of hungers that stalk the hallways of Pilgrims’ Inn.
As always, our warmest wishes for your home to be free of hunger, and full of joy.