Collaborating with our community

Collaborating with our community

February 14, 2022 in Charlie's Corner Harvest Time Newsletter

Again and again, I witness the importance of collaboration. As someone who grew up in this community, I recognize the hard work of countless leaders, volunteers and citizens who work to make our lives better.

The 2021 Community Focus Report, released earlier this year, gives us a vivid picture of what working together means in southwest Missouri.

The Community Focus Report is a biennial report card of strengths and challenges in Greene County. Started in 2004, the report is assembled by subject-matter leaders and covers everything from health, education, economic growth, diversity, and more. This data-focused snapshot of our community helps us identify areas in need of improvement.

Ozarks Food Harvest continues to battle the red flag issues of poverty and hunger, while working with fellow nonprofits to better the lives of people in southwest Missouri. The Food Bank’s Weekend Backpack Program, for instance, provides nearly 1,600 food-insecure children with bags of nutritious food to take home each weekend of the school year. Many of these children attend Title 1 schools, and their families may struggle with homelessness, generational poverty, substance abuse, and mental health issues. This program provides the stability and nutrition children need to perform academically and meet development milestones. It’s essential in addressing Red Flags such as education achievement gaps, pandemic-related learning challenges, and mental health needs.

Presley, a nine-year-old student that participates in the program said, “I don’t have enough food to eat over the weekends. It is hard to think about not having enough food at home. The food bag helps me because I want to get A’s on everything. I want to be a veterinarian when I grow up.”

This year’s report card not only focused on Blue Ribbons and Red Flags, but also examined the pandemic’s impact, which has affected all aspects of our lives. One of the community themes is the need to regain momentum, as unfortunately much of the progress that Springfield had made toward resolving Red Flag issues halted with the pandemic. Healthcare has been hugely impacted, but so has the workforce, early childhood care, and housing. Each area affects several others. A lack of affordable childcare, increased housing prices, and lower-than-average wages, for instance, are all factors that could contribute to a family facing hunger.

Collaboration among nonprofits is essential, but so is working together as individuals. Volunteer levels at dozens of local organizations have been impacted by the pandemic. Springfield needs your help. For every $1, Ozarks Food Harvest can provide 4 meals, and every one hour of volunteer time provides 105 meals.

We are so grateful to live in such a generous community that takes pride in reaching collective goals and helping its neighbors. I sincerely thank you for your support.