It affects one in three children in West Virginia.
It costs the state $3.9 billion.
It’s an issue that continues to grow.
As Stephen Smith, director of West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, said, “It’s affecting all of us in one way or another.”
The “it” is poverty.
And a group of social agencies and concerned citizens is doing something about it.
But it won’t be a simple task. As Smith pointed out, 48 percent of West Virginians live below self-sustainability. That means they don’t make enough money to get by without government help. And it means nearly half the state is working or is in and out of jobs, yet still doesn’t make enough to get by.
Smith called the figure “shocking.” As director of West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, a statewide child health and child poverty advocacy group, he sees the issue firsthand.
“There is a very powerful myth that poverty is something that afflicts only a minority of us, and that those people deserve it,” Smith said. “What we’ve learned over and over from community meetings and statistics is that frighteningly living at or near the poverty line is becoming the norm for West Virginians.”
That’s where “Our Children, Our Future: The Campaign to End Child Poverty” comes in. The coalition is planning its strategies for next year, all with the goal of improving the health of children and families in West Virginia.
Again, the issue is one that affects each of us.
As Smith pointed out, the cycle of poverty creates a ripple effect in the state’s economy. When good-paying jobs are plentiful, people spend their money and the economy benefits. But when times get tight, people give up what they think are nonessentials — things like eating out or going on shopping sprees — and the whole economy suffers.
And sadly, the issue is not one that’s new in the Mountain State.
“About 40 years ago, there was an onslaught on families in West Virginia,” Smith said. “Compared to then, now there are fewer jobs per capita. They pay less, are harder to get and much, much harder to keep. It’s become insanely harder to find and keep a job. Meanwhile, the cost of things has gone up and support systems (family, church, unions) have spread out and become dispersed.”
As groups like the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition work to bring children and families out of poverty, we are encouraged by Smith’s simple but heartfelt promise: “We’re trying to figure out in small ways and big ways how to address this problem. We are 100 percent serious and unrelenting when it comes to working on things where we can actually make a difference.”
Poverty is clearly a big issue in West Virginia, and it’s one that is unlikely to disappear without a fight.
But having people who are committed to making a difference goes a long way toward winning the battle.
It affects one in three children in West Virginia.
COLUMN: Freedom of Information — if you can pay
Several years ago, I made a Freedom of Information request to a local government agency. Within the five business days, as required by law, a packet of information was delivered to the office. I expected a bill, as most government offices have a charge that ranges from 25 cents to $1.25 per page for copies of the documents we request.
The reassuring spirit of Easter: One of new hope and beginnings
During the sub-zero and snow-filled months of winter, we maintained a spirit of hope that spring was on the way. It has now become a reality as all nature stretches and yawns and awakens once more to a new beginning. The fragrance of spring awakens our waiting nostrils, the budding beauty of new life brightens our eyes, and the reassuring idea of renewal stimulates our minds.
Unsung heroes handling calls in emergencies are appreciated
Thankfully, we live in a community where help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, just by dialing three numbers — 9-1-1.
During this week, which is recognized as National Public Safety Tele-Communicator’s Week nationwide, we need to remember that on the other end of that line are the men and women here in this county who are always there in case of accident, crimes, medical emergencies and any other catastrophic event.
Message to ‘buckle up and park the phone’ is saving lives
A figure that we haven’t seen that much in recent years is the highway death toll for a given period.
Is the death toll up, down or just about the same as it was?
The West Virginia Southern Regional Highway Safety Program has announced there were 325 highway fatalities in 2013, the second-lowest number on record.
State native Burwell can ‘deliver results’ as Health and Human Services secretary
Sylvia Mathews Burwell might not be a name with which most people are immediately familiar.
For the past year, she has run the budget office under President Barack Obama.
Prior to that, she served as president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program and later the Wal-Mart Foundation.
Marion scores well in recent health report but could do better
When it comes to area-wide studies, especially on health, there’s usually good news and bad news.
So was the recent report on the health of America’s counties released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently. The nationwide county study evaluated health outcomes and health factors, and ranked counties accordingly.
COLUMN: ‘Instant’ news not always reliable
That little word has a pretty big meaning. With origins that date back to the 15th century, it means urgent, current, immediate.
But think about how that word has developed over the past few decades.
Instant pudding. Instead of slaving over a hot stove for a few minutes, you can now pour cold milk and with a bit of stirring, instant pudding!
Decision to be an organ donor can save lives
Chelsea Clair watched as her father died waiting for a bone marrow transplant.
So when she met Kyle Froelich at a car show in 2009 and heard about his struggles to find a kidney that would match his unique needs, she never hesitated to offer hers to the man she just met.
Volunteers continue to have priceless impact on community
Chances are, you know someone who volunteers. Perhaps you’re a volunteer yourself.
Marion County is full of volunteers.
They read to our youth.
They assist nonprofit agencies.
They serve on boards and committees.
And in 2013, they spent a day picking up nearly 10 tons of garbage that had been tossed out on public property around Marion County.
Proposed school calendar lives up to letter and spirit of law
West Virginia state law requires that students be in a classroom for 180 days.
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