Hard Times spur growing need for help

A s the nation’s economy continues to struggle with high unemployment rates, the effects are increasingly being felt in Granville and surrounding areas. With jobs remaining scarce and some employers reducing hours, organizers of local programs aimed at helping people in need say they are feeling the strain of hard times.

JoAnn Holland, organizing force of the Granville Ecumenical Food Pantry, said those seeking help rounding out their food budgets have increased each month since about September.

“We’re starting to see it pick up quite a bit,” Holland said on Dec. 4.

Holland said with the recent news unemployment benefits have not been extended by Congress, she expects a greater demand for supplemental food baskets.

“I think we’re going to see a big increase after the first of the year; we’re just starting to see it now,” she said.

With the onset of heating season, food prices going up, the expiration of unemployment benefits, jobs remaining scarce and gas prices surging back up above $3 per gallon, Holland said she expects hard choices to push people to either return to the food pantry or seek its assistance for the first time.

“There are layoffs. People have been let go or had their hours cut back,” she said.

Those difficulties cut both ways for the food pantry, Holland said.

With money tight, those who used to make regular cash contributions, what she called “the life’s blood” of the food pantry, simply cannot afford to help in that way any longer. Overall, she said, the pantry is doing pretty well. “We’re doing OK and keeping our head above the water level,” she said.

Thanks to organizations, from local churches to the Boy Scouts and many others, food continues to come in. “(Monetary) contributions are way down but food coming in is great,” Holland said.

Recently an Argyle catheter plant made a significant contribution. “Oh my goodness you would not believe it –it was all good stuff, no (useless) items; it’s outfits like that that really keep us going,” she said.    

Former Granville Board of Education member Tamme Taran said she helps out with two local efforts: the Lions Club Kids Christmas and the Rotary Club’s Christmas Wish.

The Rotary Club’s annual spaghetti fundraising dinner at Bernardo’s helps fund the effort to help out needy area children to ensure they have the necessities like warm boots, a hat or coat.

“That’s a flexible number each year and demand is definitely up. I help to organize the effort and ask parents if they want to participate and lately more responders have been saying yes they want to participate,” Taran said.

Each year inquiries go out to about 50 families with children, she said. Most of the years about half of those contacted would reply. This year, she said, without being finished making contact about 75 percent have replied, saying they would like help.

“I think it’s a higher number, but I don’t know how many yet,” she said. “With that many families the number of kids could be pushing 100; more people need help.”  

With the Lions Club’s program, Taran said, the difference can be seen in what children are selecting as gifts this year compared to other years.

The club takes 20 children shopping each year for their families, getting each member a present.

In the past, the children might get practical gifts for parents, such as clothing, and a toy for siblings or themselves.

“The lists have changed; what they were asking for was very different. They’re going for necessities instead of the fun stuff,” she said. 

The two children she helped with shopping had similar outlooks and were determined to get basic necessities for family members.

“You really had to push the kids to buy any toys at all even just something small a truck or a ball to play with,” she said.

The Rev. Jim Peterson said he estimates the contributions to the annual rummage giveaway might be down a bit in 2010, but expected the demand to rise, given the state of the economy.

The giveaway, which as the name implies provides donated items to those in need and supplies everything from clothing and children’s toys to bedding and appliances, has seen an enthusiastic turnout each year at the Granville Baptist Church.

Peterson said he expected people to be lined at the church doors before the 9 a.m. opening of last Saturday’s event.

Peterson said volunteers from across a broad spectrum of the community come to donate and help organize the giveaway.

“It really is a broad-based community event,” he said.

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