Winter Storm Leon has received national attention and various nicknames as it halted the southeast to a standstill- #Snowpocalypse, #SouthernSnow, #ArcticAttack just to name a few. Around Montgomery, there hasn't been anything like it since the "Blizzard of '93", which was only about 4 inches with snow drifts up to 5-6 feet. And before that, an event like this hasn't happened since the 1970's. Our neighbors to the North find it difficult to understand how the South can shut down over 1-2 inches of snow and freezing rain, but I would challenge them to brave the heat and humidity during the summer months and see if the playing field is even.
Montgomery is central to commuters and businesses alike that travel and distribute to Birmingham and Atlanta, both of which were hit hard during the storm. Children were stranded in schools (11,000 in Alabama alone), abandoned cars were left on several major roadways, and jack-knifed truckers blocked interstates, leaving those stranded to fend for themselves until help came. Although a lot of the stories have been tragic in nature, we also have heard 'Stories of Hope'- those that braved the elements to rescue families and individuals out of their cars, teachers that consoled students throughout the night as they slept in schools, and countless acts of kindness for those that were left stranded. There was the manager that gave out 1,000 sandwiches from Chick-Fil-A to feed motorists left stranded on the interstate in the Birmingham area, and a doctor, that walked six miles to perform a life saving surgery. Unfortunately, there were 5 weather related deaths, and one amazing tale of a woman that gave birth to her child (Grace Elizabeth) while stranded in her car in the Atlanta area.
An article from AL.com put it perfectly with '5 things we've learned from the winter storm that shut us down' , Number 1. being 'Human compassion is alive and well'. That is the purpose of the Montgomery Area Food Bank--we believe in the power of human compassion. So rarely do we find that we can get past our anxieties and focus on the "bigger picture". And too often we forget that those around us, not just the homeless and destitute, but our neighbors, our community, need a helping hand. We forget that the definition of "working poor" has at least one employed adult in their home and they simply cannot bridge the gap between their expenses and their necessities.
Of the more than 300,000 people that the MAFB and their affiliate organizations serve, most are low-income workers and their families. These people live at or below 130% of the poverty line and face numerous adversities while trying to provide for their families.
It takes a disaster to focus in on the problem and bring it to the forefront, and for a short while, we all band together and reach out to those in our community.
Gandhi said it best "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others", and I think that's something we can all agree with.
For more information on the Montgomery Area Food Bank and how we reach those in need across 35 counties in Alabama- Find us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. Stroll through our website to find out more information about Volunteerism and 'Stories of Hope', or simply give us a call.
Our blog today was written by Cheri O'Dell, who manages the Senior Supplement Program and works closely with many local agencies to ensure that seniors in need receive assistance that will help them live longer, healthier lives.
I have been fortunate to be able to coordinate the Senior Supplement Program for the past two years. I say fortunate because I feel privileged to be able to serve a generation of our society that has given so much to our country.
This is a generation of people who lived through the Great Depression, World War II, the Korea and Vietnam wars. They grew up knowing tough times and how to survive. They worked all their lives so that their children would never have to experience the same hardships they did. Now they are in their “Golden Years”. These are the times that they should be able to take it easy, sit back and enjoy life.
Instead, they are “pinching" their precious pennies and making tough decisions every day about whether to pay their power bill, buy bread and milk or pick up the prescriptions they must have. Standing in a grocery store line, I’ve become more aware of the elderly person in front of me who has maybe five little items in their basket. It makes me wonder how long that little bit of food has to last them. We’ve even heard of one local senior who was forced to eat cat food to survive…luckily, we were able to provide her with long-term assistance with the help of one of our Partner Agencies who served her community.
There is plenty of research demonstrating the critical situation of poverty among our seniors. The numbers are heartbreaking. A study done by the USDA revealed the following: In 2011, almost one in every 12 seniors above the age of 60 in the United States was food insecure. That represents 4.8 million seniors nationwide, which is more than double the number of food insecure seniors in 2001.
Compound those shocking statistics with the fact that the majority of seniors are reluctant to ask for assistance and you have a very concerning situation. Almost every conversation I’ve had with a senior seeking assistance has started with the phrase “I hate to ask…” I’ve been greeted with hugs and tears just for providing a few bottles of Ensure to a lady in our community.
One of the Montgomery Area Food Bank’s programs is focused on senior hunger. Through the Senior Supplement Program, we are able to provide enrolled seniors with a box of non-perishable food items each month. Normally these boxes include a box of cereal or some grits, a variety of soups, canned vegetables, fruits, canned meats, and rice or pasta. It is currently assisting 360 seniors in just eleven of our counties that the Montgomery Area Food Bank serves directly. The program is growing—slowly—too slowly from my perspective. I am grateful for our many donors and the assistance we receive to support the program; we could not have a program without them. But what keeps me from sleeping at night is thinking about the large number of seniors we don’t know about or haven’t been able to help. I know we will never completely solve the issue of senior hunger, but I know we can do much more than we are now. Our goal is to grow the program to 500 seniors by the summer of 2015. We need more donors, and more agencies willing to get involved with the program. We can’t do it without them. We can’t do it without YOU!