This year, 2008, has been difficult for many people across our nation and Effingham County has not been spared. Many in our community have lost their jobs and their homes. Meanwhile the cost of food continues to rise, gasoline costs are uncertain, and the economy is unstable. However, we remain confident that our nation will prevail, as it is composed of strong, determined and hardworking people like so many right here in Effingham County.
Fortunately, Effingham is truly a community that cares for one another. Over the years, we have seen this community rally together for many worthy causes. Whether it be for the special needs of a sick child or to help a family pick up the pieces after a devastating tornado — Effingham County has a history of standing together and “lending a hand” in a time of need.
The effects of the downward economy severely affected our area food pantries. In early October, the demand for food began to rise rapidly and the pantries’ resources were diminishing. Soon they could no longer keep up with the need for food — the pantries’ shelves were empty. A plea for help went out to the community, Effingham schools, churches, civic organizations, businesses, individuals, and families, came to the food pantries rescue. Through countless efforts, from youngsters, teens, adults and seniors, the pantries shelves were once again stocked with food items. Enough food was donated to carry the pantries through until the beginning of 2009.
Earlier this month Linda Snyder made a very difficult decision regarding the United Way’s monthly nutritional grocery distribution for seniors called the S.O.S. (Sustaining Our Seniors) program. After more than 18 years of voluntarily coordinating this program, she has decided to retire effective Dec. 23. Due to her sudden resignation, Dec. 17 was the last SOS program distribution (formerly known as the Brown Bag Program for the Elderly).
Since 1999, Ms. Linda has been a constant and devoted volunteer to this program. She has worked on average 25 hours a week seeking food items for the SOS bags from America’s Second Harvest Food Bank and local grocers, delivering and unloading the food items, then working with other volunteers to compile and give out the bags each month. During all of this time, Ms. Linda was reimbursed only for the cost of each bag of groceries. She was not reimbursed for the cost of gasoline, the use of her family’s vehicles to transport the food or for the time she spent coordinating the program. Her only compensation was the “thank you” she received from the program’s recipients and the warm compassionate feeling in her heart that she has for helping others. Ms. Linda will be retiring to enjoy time with her husband, children and grandchildren — we wish her well and we will miss her.
The SOS program was an important and much needed program, which focused on the senior citizens in our community. Living on fixed incomes and struggling to make ends meet each month, this program provided a bag of groceries (valued at approximately $40) to income qualifying seniors the last week of each month.
Perhaps now more so than before this program helped seniors stretch their food budget until the beginning of the next month.
Unfortunately, United Way has not had adequate time to plan for the new direction the SOS program will be taking with Ms. Linda’s retirement. We will be working with the Food OutReach Co-op of Effingham (FORCE) and others to review our options and resources before making any final decisions. Be assured that by the end of January 2009 we will be announcing our strategy for insuring that senior citizens have access to supplemental food when needed.
It is important to stress that if there is an emergency need for food (among any age group in Effingham) the food pantries in the community are willingly there to serve and assist. You can receive information on Effingham food pantries by calling the United Way at 826-5300.
Staff and volunteers at the United Way-Effingham Service Center will miss seeing the seniors each month. We have all enjoyed serving this program. We will be hard at work making sure Effingham continues to receive the services we need and we will work diligently to bring new services to our area.
When you see Ms. Linda and the other wonderful volunteers (for without them there would not have been an SOS program) please give them a heartfelt “thank you” for their years of unselfish giving and for their commitment to our community.
We want to wish you and your family a most joyous Christmas and a New Year filled with peace, good health, happiness and prosperity. Let us all pray that our nation’s leaders will find the wisdom and strength to make decisions that will once again build up our great nation. May God continue to bless America.
The Effingham Advisory Board of the United Way of the Coastal Empire,
Bonnie Dixon, Director
Lorraine Harris, Administrative Coordinator