Many of us on Bainbridge Island may not have noticed, but there are a large number of islanders who are already feeling the pain of the economy’s meltdown. While the haves dramatically outnumber the havenots here, this recession – if that’s what this is – is beginning to get a grip on many an islander.
The Helpline House food bank is now serving well over 200 households each month, an increase of about 25 percent since early summer. In September alone, food was given to 33 additional households over the previous month, and 13 tons of food was handed out to islanders.
“September was a significant jump and it continued through October, though I don’t have those numbers yet,”
Helpine Executive Director Joanne Tews said this week. “And it’s not just the food bank…we’ve had a correlating 30 percent increase in social services. Overall, the volume is putting a a strain on us.”
The nonprofit agency needs more donations and more volunteers to handle the increased load because the need for help appears to be growing rapidly with no end in sight. The community is responding well as it always does, Tews said, but it’s difficult at this time to know what lies ahead. And with the holidays quickly approaching, there’s a good chance more and more people will need help.
What Helpline wants the needy to do is to reach out, especially for food, so that they can use the money they have to pay their heating bills and other necessities. “We will continue to buy as much food as is needed,” she said. “We’re here for them. We’ll worry about our budget later.” She said a lot of people who need help still have jobs, but there is constant concern about losing them.
“People are very stressed right now,” she said. “Some have been living on the edge for a long time because their jobs don’t pay enough. Now their facing concerns about their employment. They probably don’t have any dental insurance, on and on. It’s a ripple effect.”
Jeanne Soulier, who is a employment career specialist and contracts with Helpline House, said while layoffs have not hit the island yet she thinks that time is coming soon. She said there definitely are fewer jobs available and that she had a large increase in people seeking jobs in July and August at Helpline House.
“We are more isolated than other regions, but it’s beginning to happen here, too,” Solier said. “Job searches are becoming more difficult. People think at first that they can do it themselves, but during bad times they may need help because it usually takes longer than it does during good times. Then food and basic services became an issue.”
The tendency is for people to live with a difficult situation as long as they can before desperation sets in and help is sought. In our so-called affluent society, admitting the inability to take care of oneself and others is the last thing anyone wants to do. Tews and other social-service veterans say the actual number of people who need help is many times more than those receiving it during any one time.
America’s economy has been failing for millions of hard-working, responsible people for quite a long time. And now, it appears there will be a dramatic increase in the number of people who may need help from those of us who have been lucky enough to avoid such pitfalls. There’s always One Call For All, which reportedly is receiving a positive response so far from islanders. But don’t be afraid to do more… to roll up your sleeves and wade deep into the land of the not-so-plenty. They need our help.