Opinion

A growing need and uncertain times

In United Way’s 2006 Community Assessment survey we found that the top issues facing Kitsap County were mostly related to dental, medical and housing with drug abuse, after school activities and child care as somewhat important. As the economy began to wane in late 2007, the top issue by far on the minds of many changed to affordable housing with affordable medical care still the No. 2 issue and the price of gas and energy rapidly gaining speed as a concern.

In a recent survey conducted by the Northwest Area Foundation, the key findings indicated that six in 10 Washingtonians are worried about the economic well being of their community. Seventy six percent say it takes twice as much to get by than the government’s “poverty threshold” says it does. According to the survey, the U. S. Census Bureau’s 2007 report says the ‘poverty threshold’ for a family of four with two adults and two children is $21,027. Three quarters of Washingtonians say that it takes at least $40,000 for a family of four to make ends meet in their community.

Eighty-six percent of respondents personally want to do more to help people struggling in their community. Poverty is high on the minds of the non-profit social service community in Kitsap County, one local social service provider told me recently. . . . They are getting more and more requests for help for gas money so they can get to work. Many people have lost their jobs because they cannot afford the gas for their vehicle. In some cases, while bus passes can be offered, many don’t live in an area near a bus route.”

Here in Kitsap County many working poor families are struggling, not only to fill their cars with gas to get to work, but to keep food on the table. In the 2006 community assessment, transportation, while an issue, did not rise to a critical level. However, when we asked recently in a random survey what people thought should be added to the list of problems and concerns, transportation (gas prices/affordable transportation) was No. 3 on the list behind affordable food and housing respectively.

While it appears, at this writing, that oil and gas prices are slowly starting to come down, one of the effects of the high cost of energy is a rise in food prices and with that comes an increase in demand at all area food banks; unfortunately, the food bank shelves are nearly empty.

Last year’s United Way Campaign was down from the previous year; unfortunately, the social service agency requests for last year increased by 24.1 percent over the previous year. What that meant to the social service network was less help for those who most need help.

How can you make a difference during these times of growing need in an uncertain economy? You CAN make a difference! You can help create opportunities. You can lend a hand here in Kitsap County.

GIVE, ADVOCATE, VOLUNTEER

When you reach out a hand to one, you influence the condition of all. We are all connected and interdependent; we are a community. We all win when a child succeeds in school, when families are financially stable, when people are healthy and when people’s basic needs are met.

Live United! You will see this in the coming weeks and months. You will hear how people in Kitsap County and across the country, Live United. How do you Live United? Join hands, open your heart, lend your muscle, find your voice, give an hour, give a Saturday, and make a pledge or a contribution to a charitable organization. Think of ‘we’ before me. Reach out a hand and influence the conditions in our community.

Please, Lend a Hand Close to Home. Give a tax-exempt gift, an annual pledge to United Way. This year more than ever, United Way of Kitsap County and the United Way partner agencies throughout the community need your help.

David L. Foote, executive director,

United Way of Kitsap County

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