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April 19, 2013

SOUTHERN: Charity can begin here in Cass County

Americans are funny. We will travel 1,200 miles to see a pile of rocks, a waterfall, or big trees and not visit what is nearby. It seems like people think that things worth visiting, saving and working with are always a long way from home. Take the people who go to Africa to fight hunger, South American to fight measles, or to Asia to drill wells. All of these actions are to be commended. My point is that there is a need for most of these activities here also. Doing here is much easier and possibly more rewarding. How many people go to bed hungry each night in Cass County? How many people in Logansport cannot afford a good health insurance policy so that they might have medical care? How many don’t have a place to sleep except for a friend’s couch? How many people would be out of their home if they missed one paycheck? At some point in our lives, this could have been about any of us.

I don’t know the answers to these questions. Even official census records probably don’t tell the whole story. How many people are living on the edge and say nothing because of their pride or lack of knowledge of what is available. Census records indicate that 20 percent of the people living in Logansport have incomes below the poverty level. Believe me, even living at the poverty level is no piece of cake. At that level a family is lucky to have a shack and a smidgen of food. If you raise those figures to 150 percent of the poverty level, still not a lot of money, and you have a much larger portion of people just barely getting by. There are a lot of people in Logansport who are suffering because they lack an adequate income.

Fortunately, Logansport also has a lot of caring people. People who want to look out for their fellow man. As poor as the city might be, there always seems to be help when it is needed.

One of our local institutions is Emmaus Mission. Emmaus exists in some old school buildings that probably should have fallen down long ago. However, somehow the buildings are held together and Emmaus accomplishes its mission there. One part of the Emmaus Mission is the homeless shelter. It opened its doors in 2002 and has provided minimal sleeping rooms since that time. While not a luxury hotel, it is a place off the street where those in need can spend a night. The mission provides residents with shelter, food, and clothing for up to six months. During that time, residents are helped to find work, improve life skills and to solve life’s many trials and tribulations. Shelter is provided for men, women and children. Families may remain together while in the shelter. Three meals each day are prepared and served by those living in the shelter. Many times after events in the county, I know people have taken leftover food to the shelter so that the residents could enjoy. Sometimes it is nothing more than a few dozen donuts from the Lions’ Club or five dozen tenderloins left from a tenderloin fry. No matter what it is, the people living at the shelter are always grateful and say thank you. Logansport is very lucky to have the shelter at the Emmaus Mission.

The mission also operates a Benevolence Center. It serves as a thrift store and a food pantry for those that need help. The store sells clothing, bedding, furniture, household items and other materials, all of which are sold at a very low price. The center is a big help in allowing those suffering the most in our community to survive. The food pantry alone supplies food for about a thousand families each month. Much of this food is donated by businesses, institutions and individuals. Some food is purchased from Food Finders.

Other institutions exist in Logansport to help those who might be in need. Just today I visited the Senior Center at 6th and High streets. The Senior Center serves mostly older people, some of which are poor, some of which are lonely, and some of which need some place to go. They have a movie room and an exercise room for patrons. The Senior Center also has subsidized transportation to bring older citizens into the center. They serve lunch each day, Monday through Friday. The lunch is cheap, smelled tasty, and seemed to be enjoyed by the many seniors present. I spoke with a few of the patrons and some of the staff. Everyone seemed so helpful and polite. I think the cook saw me standing looking lost. She came out to show me where to sign-in and pay while offering me what looked like an awesome meal.

Fortunately, Logansport does have a lot of people who think of others. People, like Clara, who are willing to take a few minutes to box up gifts for poor children in other countries. Or, like Penny who was bouncing around all over trying to make sure people’s needs were met.

I am proud of our community and what it accomplishes. With so many trials, the community could easily give up and become a Detroit. No, instead people of many cultures and creeds work together to make sure everyone has at least the minimum to survive. I say thank you. That is what I think. What do you think?

Gordon Southern is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached through the newspaper at ptnews@pharostribune.com.

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