I’m haunted by the recent 60 Minutes story on homeless and starving children. These aren’t kids who live across the world or even across the country — they live in MY community. The help centers profiled in the piece are in shopping plazas I go to all the time. These food pantries struggling to keep up with the demand are right down the street from my house.
If you haven’t watched the powerful 60 Minutes piece yet, I command you to watch it now. I’ll be waiting.
Welcome back. I’m blown away by the bravery and grace of all the kids and families profiled here.
After watching this, I was already kicking some ideas around in my head. And then when I was home sick last week, the universe spoke to me again and reminded me how urgent the need is.
I don’t think I’ve ever watched a Dr. Oz before, but since I was home sick alone, I started watching it. And could you believe that not only were they talking about childhood hunger, too, but yet again, a family in MY community was featured. Your heart will break when the mother, who used to earn a great salary and had a beautiful home before she and her husband were laid off, has to line up at a food pantry. Her reaction is so honest and so painful. Of course we would all do ANYTHING to feed our children, but for a moment, can you picture yourself lining up when you’ve lived a life with full refrigerators, pizza take-out and family dinners out?
Click here for their story. (But make sure you come back, I’ve got more to tell you!)
The universe (or God, whatever you want to believe) speaks to you if you’ll only open your ears and heart. And here’s what I learned:
–16 million children are living in poverty in this country
— One-third of the nation’s homeless families live in Florida
— Orlando ranks No. 2 in the nation for childhood hunger
— One in six children lives on the brink of hunger in Florida. The number is closer to one in four for Central Florida. (source: Second Harvest Food Bank)
— More than 3,000 students in Orange County Public Schools are homeless
Now that my eyes have been opened, what I’m I going to do about it?
For starters, my husband and I have decided to skip giving each other gifts this year. We both work, and although money is always tight, if there’s ever anything we truly want or need, we buy it for ourselves. I know gifts don’t have to be expensive to be meaningful, but too often, we both just grab some junk for each other for Christmas just so there’s something under the tree.
So, in January, we’re donating $100 to the homeless students fund for the Orange County School District (the district we live in). I know that may not seem like a lot but it’s the best we can do for right now.
Also, I’m participating in a family “adoption” with my mom’s club. We do it every year. Some years, I’ll buy one or two things, but this year, since I already knew DadJovi and I weren’t buying gifts for each other, I bought at least one gift for all five children on our list. These are kids, some as young as 6 months old, who live in a medical foster home. If there’s anyone that needs all the donations they can get, it’s these special children.
Since it’s important for E. to also realize just how lucky she is, she helped me pick out all the gifts, and she and I will also be going through her existing toys to find some gently loved ones that would make other children really happy.
But my efforts don’t stop there. I recently met with a handful of local moms who are also bloggers (sorry, but I don’t do the “mommy blogger” title) and we had an amazing brainstorming session. We’re still sorting through all our ideas but what I can tell you is that 2012 is going to be a big year. We’re pooling our combined skills, resources, contacts and passion to make a real difference in our communities. And we’re going to need your help.
I promise, we’re not just going to keep asking you for donations every month. We’ve got some ideas of great ways your entire family can help some very needy — and deserving — children in our community. I don’t know about you, but I can no longer pretend that there aren’t children just down the street from me who are going to bed hungry every night. I can’t live with myself if I didn’t know I was doing much more to ease their suffering.
Keep following me, The Unemployed Mom, Not Your Typical Mommy, Going Small Town and Plum District Orlando for details. And if you want to get involved with our brainstorming and planning, drop me an e-mail.
Until then, I urge to give what you can. Whether it’s cleaning out your pantry to make a food donation to Second Harvest or opening up your wallet, I challenge you to find one small way to change a life this year. You’ll never regret it.
Here are some resources to help you get started:
— Families in Transition, which helps homeless students in Seminole County (and it was featured in the 60 Minutes piece)
— Share Our Strength (featured on Dr. Oz)
Got any other ideas of ways to help? Share them here and together, I know we can make a difference.