I know there’s lots of people out there who, when seeing what’s happened to their 401K due to the coronavirus triggered stock market tank, let out with an involuntary, “Unngghh,” like they’d just got a kidney punch from George Foreman.
Some likely uttered a “Holy Moly!” Others expressions more colorful.
Even before the COVID-19 crisis hit, many Crawford County citizens were facing a fear much more immediate – food insecurity, the disruption of food intake or eating patterns because of lack of money and other resources. Fact is, even before the layoffs and shutdowns, one in five in our county lived in poverty. That’s 7,800 people. As joblessness and the economic downturn continue it’s bound to rise.
Thank God for Wesley House, funded by Pittsburg’s First United Methodist Church, which has, for years, been providing for the needy. But like everyone else, they’ve had to adjust their operation to honor social distancing, according to Executive Director, Marcee Binder, who was recently appointed by Gov. Kelly to the Kansas Volunteer Commission.
Currently, they provide the homeless with daily breakfast and lunch bags that they pick up at the site. The bags contain foods like Pop Tarts, tuna and crackers, peanut butter crackers, pop top cans of fruit, etc. Items that are easily opened and don’t need to be cooked or require refrigeration.
They also continue to offer a free food pantry Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, but, with social distancing, it’s changed. Rather than come in, clients now phone 232-3760 (11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.) to place an order and arrange a time to pick it up within that time period (they’re unable to deliver).
When I asked Binder how interested persons can help out, she told me the food pantry was especially low on taco shells and pancake syrup. In addition to shells and syrup, you can donate non-perishable foods of any kind for the pantry, as well as contents for the bags mentioned above, by dropping them by 411 E. 12th, Pittsburg, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m Tues.-Wed.-Thur.
Of course they can always use financial support, donations to help buy food from the Kansas Food Bank and keep their general services afloat. You can mail them a check or go their web site and donate using your credit card.
I also asked Binder’s opinion on the area’s long-term needs for the poor. She ticked them off without hesitation: 1) A homeless shelter for both families and singles; 2) Wraparound physical and mental health services; 3) Daycare; 4) Access to transportation.
Rev. Binder was quick to give praise to USD 250 and surrounding school districts for developing contingency plans to get breakfasts and lunches to students once schools were closed. Not to mention the local churches that filled in when districts were on spring break.
Let’s also be grateful for The Lord’s Diner, operated by the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, which provides free evening meals daily. It, too, has had to change operation because of COVID-19. Rather than serving in the dining room they now prepare nightly meals to go and hand them out curbside.
Site Director Laura Ramsey told me the number of evening meals handed out 5:30 PM – 7:00 PM has been steadily increasing to an average of about 250. She reported they’ve been blessed by lots of donations — from the casino, restaurants, local schools and Marrone’s to name a few — that have helped cover the increased demand.
“We are getting a little short on three compartment Styrofoam trays for the meals, though,” Ramsey told me. If you’d like to help purchase trays or food stock, donations can be mailed to 406 N. Locust, Pittsburg.
Getting back to the stock market downturn, to be sure, our reactions arise out of fear: fear of losing what we have or not being able to get what we want / need in the future. Asking questions like, “Will I be able to maintain my standard of living in my current retirement? And even more troubling, “Will I ever be financially able to retire?”
As troubling as these anxieties are, we’re called to remember that there are those in our community that would be tickled to death to substitute them for theirs, which are: “How will I afford to buy groceries on unemployment?” “How will I feed my children?” and “Where will I get something to eat today?”
Let’s be grateful to have Wesley House and The Lord’s Diner to help answer these questions here in Crawford County, as well as be mindful that both organizations largely depend upon donations to complete their missions.
Also, take some time to contemplate a quote I happened upon recently from 4th century Catholic Archbishop, Saint John Chrysostom. “Feeding the hungry,” he wrote, “is a greater work than raising the dead.”
—J.T. Knoll is a writer, speaker and celebrant. He also operates Knoll Training, Consulting & Training in Pittsburg. He can be reached at 620-231-0499, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 401 W. Euclid, Pittsburg, KS 66762