by Ted S. McGregor Jr., Ann M. colford and Suzanne Schriener & r & Help in a SNAP & r & As you're filling out your list this year, don't forget to make room for those less fortunate than yourself -- people who have lost their job, been hit with an illness and medical bills, or people who have even lost their homes. With more than 30 programs aimed at assisting those Spokane citizens who are facing hard times, the Spokane Neighborhood Action Programs (SNAP) serves as the final safety net for many people. Ron Hardin, development coordinator for SNAP, says shrinking federal funding is making his organization more dependent than ever on local contributions.
"That funding is getting harder to come by," Hardin says. "And our intake people say that people who are contacting us this year are folks who have lived her for 30 years and are starting to have to ask for help."
Of course Project Share is one of SNAP's bigger programs; it allows everyone, right there on their utility bill, to make a contribution to help people pay for their heating costs, which are way up this year. Local utilities contribute, too -- Avista recently contributed $200,000. Last year, 10,313 families qualified for $4.5 million in assistance. SNAP also offers help to those seeking to reestablish credit or wanting to buy a first home. And SNAP pays special attention to homeless families in Spokane County -- typically single-parent units that have suffered a setback of some kind that wound up putting them on the street.
SNAP doesn't ring bells during the holidays; it's business as usual. But that doesn't mean you should forget about this last line of defense against the perils of poverty -- Hardin calls their mission "a hand up rather than a hand out." Hardin adds that you can donate to SNAP in general and let them decide how to spend the money, or you can earmark your contribution to a specific program, like support for homeless families or Project Share. With a few bad breaks, just about anyone could find themselves needing a hand up right now. & r & -- Ted S. McGregor Jr.
To donate, call Ron Hardin at (509) 456-7111, ext. 242. To look at SNAP's programs, check out their Web site at www.snapwa.org. All contributions are tax-deductible.
Gulf Coast Relief & r & This year's devastation along the Gulf Coast brought emergency relief efforts close to home for many Americans. Three months after Hurricane Katrina, many areas of New Orleans remain unlivable. As in so many disasters, natural and otherwise, it was the poor and marginalized who bore the brunt of the storm. Talking heads wondered aloud if the televised images from the region would prompt a new openness about issues of poverty in America, but now that the early media saturation has slowed, the jury is out on whether any lasting change will take place.
Many relief organizations moved in after the storms hit, so it's hard to know where to direct contributions even as the region is still in need a lot of help. Oxfam America has a long history internationally, both in emergency relief and in addressing the causes of poverty and social injustice, and it's rated highly by the American Institute of Philanthropy. The group's relief efforts around the Gulf mark the first time the organization has responded on American soil. Oxfam creates partnerships with regional organizations to help cleanup and rebuilding efforts and to increase communities' preparedness for future calamities. & r & -- Ann M. Colford
Visit www.oxfamamerica.org or call (800) 77-OXFAM.
Trees Of Sharing & r & There are now less than three weeks to go until C-Day. You've gotten elbowed at the bargain tables and are already urping out on the continuous burble of Christmas carols. You're trying to remember the reason for the season. How about - let's see now - maybe sharing with those who have less? It's a classic theme, going all the way back to the little family in Bethlehem that needed a place for the night and found room in a stable.
Well, the Trees of Sharing have taken that spirit into the halls of commerce - that is, your local malls. The plan is simple: Provide gifts to thousands of low-income people -- everyone from infants to the disabled to the elderly. Wanna help? Just pick up a gift tag at a Tree of Sharing booth -- which tells you that an 11-year-old girl is hoping for the latest Harry Potter tome -- purchase the gift and return it to the booth. Voila! You've just brightened the holidays for someone who might have gone without. And that's a good thing. & r & -- Suzanne Schreiner
The Trees of Sharing are open through Sunday, Dec. 11, at River Park Square, NorthTown Mall, and Spokane Valley Mall. Call 838-7538 or 624-1366.