Friday, July 11, 2014

When it comes to hunger, ‘tis always the season

June 30. 2013 6:28PM

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“CHRISTMAS is doing a little something extra for someone”. – Charles Schulz, cartoonist and creator of the comic strip, Peanuts.

For most of us, we have just started to enjoy the summer and we’re not even thinking about the Christmas season, which seems like a long way off. Yet, for 25 years, the United Way of Wyoming Valley has promoted “Christmas in July” and in this special anniversary year, we are hoping that you will be willing to do “a little something extra for someone.”

Christmas in July is the United Way’s annual food drive. Each year, we ask companies and their employees to collect food and monetary donations during the month of July in support of the Weinberg Regional Food Bank operated by the Commission for Economic Opportunity, local food pantries throughout the Wyoming Valley and a number of non-profit agencies that supply food and other essentials to those they serve.

During the traditional holiday season, many reflect on the blessings in their lives and tend to show their gratitude with charitable acts and donations. Generally speaking, this isn’t necessarily the case during the summer as we are busy planning our vacations and other summertime activities. The United Way’s Christmas in July initiative brings awareness to the needs of others during this time and calls on those who can to help those in need.

The sad fact is that hunger doesn’t know a season and, unfortunately, according to Gene Brady, the longtime Executive Director of CEO, the number of area residents needing food donations has grown ten percent in the last year as the impact of the recession lingers on. Monsignor Kelly of Catholic Social Services also reports that the numbers of people being served at the soup kitchen has increased significantly from just a few years ago.

In many ways, while America is the land of plenty, for far too many — 1 in 7 of us in Luzerne County, hunger is a reality and a daily struggle. The rate among children in Luzerne County who are “food insecure” is a bewildering 22.6%.

Last year’s Christmas in July Food Drive collected the equivalent of 70,170 pounds of food. It represented the best collection since the start of the economic downturn in 2008 and the fifth highest collection of our first 24 years. This year, not only do we hope to break a record, we need to! The need is just too great. I am hoping that we exceed 100,000 pounds of food.

To this end, I am thrilled that the number of companies, labor unions and organizations that have already signed up to participate in the 25th Annual Christmas in July Food Drive has doubled last year’s total. As advocates for our community, our staff at the United Way is grateful to all the companies who have embraced this challenge. They have our applause and heartfelt appreciation for their willingness to make a difference for others in our community.

It is never too late to help. Community groups, businesses of all sizes, churches and even individuals can sign up by calling 829-6711. All we ask is that you bring your donations of food or monetary gifts to the Weinberg Food Bank on July 31st between 10am and 1pm. It’s that easy.

For most of us, the holiday season is still five months away. For others, especially those in need and children who consistently may not have enough to eat, Christmas in July cannot come fast enough. Many, many thanks to all those who will answer the call to “do a little something extra for someone”. …and that, Charlie Brown, is what Christmas is all about.

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