“Earl" (named changed to protect his privacy) visited the soup kitchen on the day I volunteered to prep and serve food. Trays are counted to track the number of hungry folks who came through for a fresh, hot meal.
Gratitude and Holiday Giving to Help Families in Need
This time of year brings the meaning of the holidays into focus. It is the time to reflect, feel and show gratitude, and enjoy traditions of the season’s best. Many celebrations and holiday meals are at the heart of home. Home is the place for gathering of family and friends, and where traditions begin and memories are created.
"Two kinds of gratitude: The sudden kind we feel for what we take; the larger kind we feel for what we give."— Edwin Arlington Robinson
However, this joyous season is not always a happy time for others, and can be a matter of survival for those needing shelter, warmth, food, and other necessities.
In Kentucky, it is estimated that 540,058 households already pay more than 30 percent of their incomes on housing.(1) One-third of Kentucky’s working families are low-income.(2) This means that colder temperatures and rising utility bills can burden household budgets, leaving many with little or no extra funds for groceries, medicines, warm coats or gloves, or other critical items.
School closures mean that children living in poverty will not have access to free or reduced-cost lunches, which could be their only meal during most days. Did you know that one in four Kentucky children live in poverty?(3)
Sadly, these struggles do not just creep up for families during the holidays; they need help all through the year. If you are a housing partner reading this, many of these families are clients we, together, serve, and we are collaborating to explore integrative approaches to lift these families out of poverty.
Below is a short list of organizations for consideration of giving.
Kentucky Housing Corporation Community Resource Guide
This guide lists community partners in alphabetical order by Kentucky County, statewide.
- Beattyville Housing and Development Corporation, Inc., as noted in this article. www.beattyvillehousingky.org
- Coalition for the Homeless Louisville – www.louhomeless.org
- Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky – www.hhck.org
- Kentucky Habitat for Humanity – www.kyhfh.org
- Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence – www.kcadv.org
- Red Cross – www.redcross.org
- Salvation Army – www.salvationarmy.org
- United Way of the Bluegrass – www.uwbg.org
Help for Holiday Meals Make Impacts in Rural Kentucky
One of KHC’s partners, Beattyville Housing and Development Corporation, Inc., makes impact through the spirit of giving, reaching families and children in rural—and in some of the poorest—counties in the state.
Wilma Kelley, executive director, explained, “Imagine you have a 750-piece puzzle scattered from Eastern Kentucky, all over the state of Kentucky, and even a few pieces may have found their way to Washington, D.C. Beattyville Housing staff have been working diligently to find pieces of the ‘funding puzzle’ to make the holidays a little more pleasant for clients with little or no income and who need to provide a few nice gifts for their kids at Christmas and have a nice meal for their holiday dinner.”
One of the most recent grants—an important puzzle piece—was obtained that helps with buying turkeys or hams for 100 Lee County families, plus all the trimmings to make a meal for families needing help, according to Kelley.
Beattyville Housing distributes around 100 commodity food boxes per month to low-income families in Lee County; which is the 10th poorest county in the United States. Over the past 5 years, over 500 jobs have been lost in the community with the closing of the prison, Experience Works, and the Lion Apparel manufacturing plant. This has made it more difficult for those seeking employment to find work.
Food items will be distributed on Monday, December 18, to the families that are active participants in the monthly commodity distribution.
Funding for over 500 toys is being sought to go toward gifts for elementary and tween children in the Lee and Wolfe County areas. Staff have been able to locate nearly half of the funding pieces to solve this puzzle.
The toys will be distributed through local Head Start programs, day care centers, and elementary schools in Lee and Wolfe Counties.
“These local endeavors are important because we do not want anyone in the community to lack a good meal for Christmas, and we do not want the children to wake up Christmas morning and the tree be empty [underneath],” said Kelley. “That would be like the Grinch stole Christmas, if we didn’t provide food and toys for the low-income families in need.”
Backpacks and Duffle Bags for Children
KHC has also been in the spirit of giving. For over 20 years, KHC staff donated gifts of toys for foster children living at St. Joseph Children’s Home in Louisville to bring some holiday cheer. Due to additional support St. Joseph’s has received from Louisville area sponsors, KHC has chosen two new ways to share the holiday spirit of giving with children.
New duffel bags or backpacks will be collected and donated to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services for foster children in the state. Kentucky currently has 8,500 children in the foster care system, and when these children are taken from their homes, many of them have only a garbage bag to pack any clothes, toys, or personal belongings.
Non-perishable food items will also be collected for the Backpack Snack Program of Frankfort/Franklin County. This program provides meals and snacks to area students who may not have meals and adequate nutrition over the weekends. Given that all foods are secured within a backpack, children participating in the program are not singled out as receiving food assistance, which can include breakfast bars, fruit cups, pudding packs, granola bars, snack crackers, soup, ramen noodles, pasta meals, individual peanut butter packs, individual macaroni and cheese cups, “shelf stable” milk, fruit roll-ups, instant oatmeal, and chicken and tuna in vacuum-packed cans.
Children need good nutrition for the health of their growing bodies and brain function. Research shows that food insecurities create challenges in adopting and maintaining healthful behaviors. More importantly, the stress and poor mental health may lead to weight gain through stress-induced hormonal and metabolic changes as well as unhealthful eating behaviors and inactivity.(4)
Share your gratitude
Please help others in need share in the spirit of this holiday season. Volunteer. Donate time and money. Volunteer at your local homeless shelter or soup kitchen to prepare and serve meals. Donate blood. Donate items to help the Salvation Army provide humanitarian needs. Donate to local charities in your community. There are many ways to share your gratitude and generosity with others, not just during the holidays, but all year through.
References to Note
1 HUD CPD Maps at www.huduser.gov
2 Working Poor Families Project. 2009. Data generated by Population Reference Bureau from 2007 American Community Survey
3 U.S. Census Bureau
4 Food Research & Action Center at www.frac.org