Despite our best efforts as a community, many of our neighbors are not immune to falling under the poverty threshold. In fact, the vast majority of working people are just one paycheck away from a financial tailspin. In a place like East Texas, where charitable values and work ethic are encouraged by many teachers, parents, mentors, and local media, why are so many individuals slipping into poverty, and how can we address it?
United Way believes that the first step is understanding poverty as a symptom of a bigger disease. While environmental circumstances and events happening out of our control can contribute to a temporary crisis in almost any home, most root causes of poverty, poor health, domestic disputes, and financial instability can be traced back to a lack of early childhood education and nurturing.
So what is the solution?
Fund more education and after school programs for children? That’s a great start but we’re just hitting the tip of the iceberg. In order to treat the disease, we need to support programs that will lift the entire family up.
Let’s follow the example of a hypothetical child attending one of the many Title 1 elementary schools in Tyler TX:
Several of these schools do not have any after school program available and many of their libraries and other resources are less robust due to limited parent fundraiser involvement. Since many children live in a single parent home or have parents that are both working, they are coming home to an empty house after school with no encouragement to complete homework assignments or develop positive habits and hobbies. Statistics say that children living in low income homes only have 1 good book at home for every 30 children. If a child is not able to read at the 3rd grade level by the time they leave elementary school, their chances of getting out of poverty and experiencing success are extremely low.
Because of this, we need to find and support programs that are helping to make families more financially stable. A single mom who is going back to get her GED may also need subsidized day care, clothing vouchers, access to affordable health care, etc… So rather than focusing on those needs that we are all aware of, treating the underlying causes of poverty requires supporting some of those programs that are less obvious but no less important.
Each year, United Way raises over 1 million dollars to support dozens of local programs to advance local education, income, health, and help victims of abuse.
This problem is too big for any one individual or company to fix. It takes collective impact on a massive scale to really impact these issues. Last year, over 8,300 individuals donated to our local United Way and the average gift was $3.80 per week.
As we celebrate our 75th year in Smith County, we want to find new partners who are willing to give, advocate, and volunteer to help our most vulnerable neighbors.
Please consider making a one time or recurring gift by CLICKING HERE
Also, if you or someone that you know needs assistance, dial 2-1-1.