By Al Ripp, Executive Director
Every year around this time, the MOM facilities are buzzing. It’s full of cheer - people picking up holiday gifts from our Sharing Christmas program, businesses and families dropping off food and financial donations, and grocery stores providing boxes of excess food and produce. The joy is palpable and smiles abound.
But it doesn’t hide the tears of sadness and despair. When we hear words like “My husband lost his job a few months ago, and just can’t find a good job that will pay enough for our family’s expenses,” or, “She’s been sick for months, but now it’s gotten so much worse,” it reminds us of the growing need in our area. The holidays don’t stop the fear of what life is bringing around the bend. I bet you know a bit of how that feels yourself.
Yet, even with that sadness and the uncertainty of the future of our social safety network, there is hope that MOM can offer, thanks to a community who so generously cares and is part of MOM in heart and soul. From backpacks and school supplies, to clothing, warm coats and 1.4 million pounds of food for thousands of individuals, MOM has the privilege to distribute hope in times of darkness and in times of joy. Mission: Possible.
In 2016, MOM served an average of 65 households a day, 6 days a week. Case Managers met with more than 130 households every month (including, on average, 24 new to MOM), and we again distributed more food than ever before. Within each program, we were able to adjust to better meet the needs of the community. In the Food Pantry, for example, we continue to explore ways to increase the number of healthy and protein-filled food options. In the housing assistance program we are exploring ways to assist people who are working yet still homeless, and the people who can’t afford the costs of their current housing.
These programs are bolstered by the community’s generous financial support, the hundreds of volunteers and the service hours you provide, and new and continued collaborations. Our space allows us to work with other agencies bringing about change to the benefit of people in our community, including partnerships with Joining Forces for Families, Domestic Abuse Intervention Services, UW Extension’s Nutrition Education program, and the UW’s Food Science program, just to name a few. And we will continue to develop partnerships with other agencies and businesses like a local dental firm that is offering free dental care one day per month to those who use MOM’s services.
Our families and individuals are up against what can seem like insurmountable odds. The lack of affordable housing in our community, along with underemployment, makes it hard for many to make ends meet after the bills are paid. Any one emergency can mean that they may not have food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or face the possibility of being evicted with few other choices to keep a roof over their head.
I often think about Mary. Owen, her son, has a disability, and that meant a lot of medical costs for her family. She stayed afloat, until one day, an additional and unexpected expense threw off the whole balance, and everything started falling apart.
Mary felt despair. When she came to MOM for help, she didn’t know how she was going to get through even another week. MOM’s case managers were able to provide immediate rent and utility bill assistance to keep her and Owen in their housing. The use of the Clothing Center and the Food Pantry helped save their limited resources for other needed expenses, and they were able to eat healthy without sacrificing their other immediate medical needs.
You might be surprised where poverty is hiding. It could be a friend, a co-worker or someone that you sit next to in your place of worship.
There are so many different reasons why people find themselves in need of assistance. For some it’s the loss of a job. Unemployment Insurance is helpful, but the wait and low amount of replacement income caused one family to miss their rent payment, which was quickly followed by a 5-day notice and the immediate threat of eviction. They went from stable to potentially homeless in just a few short months.
Another woman lost time at work for two weeks due to a sick child who couldn’t go to school or daycare, but was too young to stay home on their own. Without family to help, she was forced to stay home from work and lost the income she depended on to pay rent.
A single parent who had recently gone on disability due to traumatic incidents in her own past was having a hard time managing her new reduced income and her child’s needs and expenses. She had skipped meals most days for weeks by time she visited MOM for help.
We know that 2017 will continue to bring these challenges for many of our neighbors. The people that visit MOM will bring with them incredible courage and resilience, and we will be here to offer the help and hope needed to help them get through tough times. We hope you will continue to join us on our mission to prevent homelessness and end hunger for real people, right here in our community.
It is because of you that Mary and Owen are now on a brighter, more stable path. It’s through the support of the business community, our schools and faith communities and you that our mission IS possible. New challenges are ahead and with your help we can make a difference!
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