The image of a father cradling the body of his lifeless daughter reminds us that the deepest tragedies are often those which affect us on the smallest and most personal level -- be it close to home or on the far side of the world.
This is the time of year when we give thanks for the blessings in our lives and reflect on the problems of those who are less fortunate, including members of our own family, friends and neighbors.
Thankfulness strikes home when you see the news reports of 10,000 people swept away in the typhoon which hit the Philippines last week.
The largest storm every reported, Typhoon Haiyan swept away entire towns, leaving 670,000 people homeless without food, water or medicine. The scene is “absolute bedlam,” according to the head of the Philippines Red Cross.
THE LITTLE THINGS
But for most of us, disaster happens on a small scale, and close to home.
Consider that more than 15% of children in Michigan live in poverty -- this in the richest country in the world. According to the federal Department of Health & Human Services, poverty in America means getting by on $11,490 per year if you’re a single adult. For a single mom with two kids, it’s living on $19,530.
Consider that a minimum wage job pays only a little more than $15,000 per year (at $7.40 per hour) and you can see that poverty is unavoidable for many in Northern Michigan. In the five-county Grand Traverse area, it’s estimated that some 12,000 people live at or near poverty levels.
Hard times have also increased the homeless among us. Last week on a walk through town, my wife and I saw a man sleeping on the freezing concrete beneath a bridge over the Boardman River, huddled in a tattered sleeping bag. And just a few blocks from where we live, it’s estimated that an average of 44 people seek shelter every night during the winter at the Safe Harbor shelter for the homeless.
No one really knows how many street people there are in Northern Michigan, but Street Advocate, a local homeless advocacy group, reports that last winter the Safe Harbor shelter served 225 homeless persons, providing 7,374 bed nights to those without a place to sleep.
HOW ABOUT YOU?
Sometimes, there’s a mean streak dividing the haves and the have-nots. Currently, there’s a bill before the U.S. House of Representatives which would cut food stamps to 3.8 million Americans, while reducing benefits to many others. Fortunately, the U.S. Senate opposes this bill.
But do the Scrooges among us outnumber those who care? Test yourself with the following list of agencies which are reaching out to the less fortunate. Which ones would you support?
Making a holiday contribution to those in need doesn’t have to be painful. It may mean as little as shaving 10% off your giftgiving budget to spread the love to people who may never know who offered a hand, be they on the other side of the world, or right next door.
PHILIPPINE RELIEF AGENCIES:
Philippine Red Cross offers direct aid (www.redcross.org.ph/)
-- is on the ground providing emergency assistance (care.org/)
Food Program USA is delivering food aid to victims (wfpusa.org/)
Habitat for Humanity has launched a “Re-Build Philippines” campaign and
is providing shelter repair kits: (www.give2habitat.org/home)
is airlifting tons of emergency supplies: (www.unicef.org/)
• Doctors Without Borders has medical teams working throughout the region: (www.doctorswithoutborders.org/)
There are dozens of agencies in Northern Michigan which reach out to assist everyone from the homeless to the working poor, children, the disabled and in animal welfare. This is by no means a complete list, but here are a few worthy causes for your consideration:
• Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency: serves a 10-county area with Head Start, home assistance, senior nutrition, emergency assistance, food pantries and more. http://www.nmcaa.net
• Big Brothers Big Sisters Northwestern Michigan: supports children in need and provides mentoring for boys and girls: www.bigsupnorth.com
• Safe Harbor of Grand Traverse: this emergency shelter in TC offers a place to sleep and meals for homeless indigents. http://gtsafeharbor.org
• Buckets of Rain: Leelanau County organization is creating sustainable gardening projects in inner-city Detroit, Flint and in poverty-stricken Guatemala. www.bucketsofrain.org
• Char-Em United Way: provides support to 28 agencies and 31 programs in the Petoskey/Charlevoix area: www.charemunitedway.org
• Salvation Army: offers food pantry and charitable services in TC, Petoskey and Cadillac. http://www. salvationarmyusa.org
• Third Level Crisis Intervention Center: programs to help homeless & foster home kids, suicide prevention and legal services are among the many offerings. www.thirdlevel.org
• Child and Family Services of Northwestern Michigan: the names says it all, assisting with adoption, foster care, pregnancies, behavioral health and other issues. http://www.cfsnwmi.org
• Traverse Health Clinic: serves 1,800 patients in need each month through the largely-volunteer efforts of doctors, nurse and dentists. www. traversehealthclinic.org
• Disability Network of Northern Michigan: helps physically and mentally disabled people find their place in the community, including help with jobs and independent living. http://disabilitynetwork.org
• Father Fred Foundation: perhaps the best-known aid group in Northern Michigan, Father Fred helps the working poor in the 5-county Grand Traverse area with everything from heating bills to food, clothing and rent. www.fatherfred.org
• Womens Resource Center: provides an emergency shelter for women fleeing domestic violence among many other services to women and children. Traverse City: http://www.womensresourcecenter.org -- Petoskey: http://www.wrcnm.org
• United Way of Northwest Michigan: supports the efforts of outreach organizations in the Grand Traverse area. http://www.unitedwaynwmi.org
• Food Rescue of Northwest Michigan: distributed over 1 million meals last year to food pantries and the homeless that might otherwise have gone into a landfill. www.foodrescuenw.org
• Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan: runs the 80-bed Goodwill Inn shelter for the homeless in TC among many other social services. http://www. goodwillnmi.org
• Habitat for Humanity: Grand Traverse: building homes for those in need. www.habitatgtr.org
• Manna Food Project: food bank based in Harbor Springs distributes to pantries in Emmet, Charlevoix and Antrim counties. www.mannafoodproject.org
Help rescue a dog or cat and provide food, shelter and neutering services to the following organizations:
• Petsafe Rescue Alliance Inc.: http://www.petsaferescue.org
• Little Traverse Bay Humane Society: www.ltbhs.com
• AC Paw Antrim County Pet & Animal Watch: www.acpaw.org
• Cherryland Humane Society: www. cherrylandhumane.org