Charlie O’Reilly: Poverty still a red flag
I’m sure many of you would agree that the Ozarks is a special place to call home. The willingness to work together to better the community and a genuine concern for others are some of the things I value most.
This fall, a report card highlighting the strengths — blue ribbons — and challenges — red flags — in Springfield and Greene County was released. Although we received many high marks in areas like collaboration, community revitalization and awareness of civic responsibility, poverty continues to be widespread among our neighbors.
According to the report, Springfield recently surpassed St. Louis to become the city in Missouri with the highest percentage of families in poverty.
No matter how many times I’ve heard about the challenges facing local families, the facts continue to surprise me. Bart shared with me that even though unemployment in Greene County has declined from nearly nine percent in 2010 to just under five percent today, more than half of children in Springfield Public Schools receive free or reduced-price lunches.
For a child to qualify for a free meal at school, a family of three, for instance, would need to make less than about $26,000 annually, according to government regulations. This serves as a clear indication that many folks in our community are struggling every day to make ends meet.
Bart recently told me about one family in Springfield who needs food assistance.
Even after starting their own business, Melody and her husband still have trouble getting enough food for their family.
“Business had been doing really well but it’s slowed down for the winter,” Melody shared with Food Bank staff. “We haven’t wanted to reapply (for food stamps), we’ve been doing really good, but the last couple weeks have been really tight.”
Melody brought her two daughters, Zoe and Ellora to a recent Mobile Food Pantry at Reed Elementary School. Volunteers and staff loaded food into the family’s wagon, and I’m told the family pulled the wagon full of food back to their home a few blocks away.
Melody said she won’t have to worry about what her family is going to eat tomorrow thanks to the help from Ozarks Food Harvest, and for that she is grateful.
Your generous gifts this season will help families like Melody’s throughout the year. On behalf of the O’Reilly Center for Hunger Relief, thank you for your support.
Charlie O’Reilly is the vice-chair of O’Reilly Automotive’s Board of Directors, a hunger-relief advocate and supporter of Ozarks Food Harvest.Holiday 2015 Harvest Time