As the old saying goes, “summer’s here and the living is easy” —or is it? For those nonprofits whose mission is to help those in our community facing serious challenges, their old saying goes something like this: “summer’s here and the living is brutal”
Consider these facts (latest available) about our community:
• As of May 2013, Georgia is still in the top 10 states in regards to foreclosures. Coming in at No. 7 with foreclosures rising 2 percent from April 2013.
• The average age of a homeless person in Gwinnett County is 6— yes, you read that correctly.
• The latest Census data shows that Georgia’s poverty rate was the third highest in the country with Gwinnett County having almost 14 percent of its total population and more than 20 percent of its children living below the poverty level.
• This most recent school year, almost 56 percent of all Gwinnett County Public School students were eligible for free or reduced lunch and breakfast.
What happens to those children when school is not in session? Many go hungry and have only one meal a day.
Gwinnett County has a long history of volunteerism, and we are blessed as a community to have a network of dedicated nonprofits that work in the trenches 365 days a year. However, during the summer months those same nonprofits struggle to provide their normal services due to lack of funding and support from the community.
Unfortunately a large percentage of those living below poverty levels and/or in true need, fall through the cracks. Why? Because during the summer months, many “take off” and enjoy that well deserved vacation. As a result; donations, gifts, in-kind services, and volunteerism to nonprofits drop drastically. Many nonprofits experience a significant drop in funding, thus stretching their operational abilities to critical levels.
Unfortunately in the summer time those families who are homeless due to a devastating event such as serious medical conditions remain that way. Those children who are going hungry because schools are out and the local food pantry shelves are bare remain that way. Those military veterans just back from overseas and who are unemployed and homeless because their former “combat job skills” don’t allow them to transition back into the community at large remain that way.
For those people, literally our neighbors, the old saying (again) says: “summer’s here and the living is brutal”.
The truth of the matter is it is now mid-July and most of us have had those well-deserved vacations. We’ve had fun, recharged, and relaxed with family and friends. Thoughts and plans are beginning to turn to the fall and the start of a new school year. Historically speaking, those dedicated nonprofits will not see a return to normal donations, giving, and volunteerism until early October. Resources and volunteer talent remain stretched to critical levels.
I’d like to issue this challenge to each and every one of you. I challenge you to get involved today. I challenge you to make a difference and to change historical patterns. Seek out those agencies who work on the front lines in the fight against; homelessness, hunger, unemployment, and poverty. Make that financial donation today, provide that in-kind service, get involved with volunteering.
As a matter a fact, get your children involved as well. With school just a little more than three weeks away now is a perfect time to “teach” them a life lesson— the value of helping others.
I’ll leave you with this: when I was a young boy my grandmother had a favorite saying that shaped my life of service to our community: “There but by the Grace of God go I.”
Tom Merkel is the President and Executive Director of The IMPACT! Group, which helps working families achieve sustainable, quality housing and remain permanently out of homelessness. For more info, go to www.theimpactgroup.org.
People Helping People is a publication of the Gwinnett Coalition for Health & Human Services. For more information contact Ellen Gerstein - firstname.lastname@example.org or at 770-995-3339.