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Commentary - Needs in community keep increasing

By Jennie Hevern, Douglas County Salvation Army

What do you say to a caring community? Donors care what is happening to their friends and neighbors and want to help. The Douglas County Salvation Army Red Kettle bell ringers and the Salvation Army committee can say thank you. However, our thank you doesn't reflect the appreciation that the clients who are assisted all year long have for the bell ringers and the generous donors who contributed to the Red Kettle campaign.

The number of people who requested assistance in 2011 increased by 20 percent and if the first two months of 2012 are an indicator of the emergency needs people are facing, there will be as much need for assistance this year.

The Minnesota Department of Labor reports the current unemployment rate for Douglas County is 5.3 percent and the city of Alexandria is 7.4 percent. This information does not reflect the residents who have had their hours reduced or that have been unemployed for months and exhausted their unemployment. Eighty five percent of the requests come from families that one or both adults are working. Fifteen percent are elderly and disabled people who have incomes less than $8,000 a year.

The majority of the requests for assistance are for basic needs, such as rent, electric, heating assistance, food and medical. The reduction in the Energy Assistance Grant has increased the requests for assistance. Transportation presents crises in families when they have large auto repair bills. The juggling of what to pay goes from month to month and soon there is no chance to catch up.

Many of the needs are too large for any one agency or church to take care of. The Douglas County Salvation Army partners with other agencies, churches and individual anonymous donors to help stabilize families and individuals. Likewise, the Salvation Army gets requests to partner as well.

We are completely aware of the recent survey of homeless families and individuals who are living in housing that is not warm and safe, as well as the folks who are living with family, friends and moving from one home to another. As a community, we collectively have the resources to solve this issue, but the challenge is do we have the will?

The requests the Salvation Army gets are for needs not wants, and so to the generous support we say thank you for helping meet the basic needs that all people have.