By U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt,
Ohio’s Second Congressional District
The laughter and love of family members gathered around the dinner table at Thanksgiving provide food for the soul.
If all you have is a loving family, then you have been blessed. We who also have warm homes and sturdy tables at which our family members can share stories as well as a few slices of turkey and pie have even more to celebrate.
As you give thanks to God for your blessings this holiday, please remember in your prayers those less fortunate.
Many families in Southern Ohio and elsewhere have been hit hard by the economic downturn. The number of people on food stamps has spiked in recent years, largely because of unemployment.
The forces of nature also have proven costly. Many in the Clermont County village of Moscow were displaced this past March, when a tornado ripped through the community of about 296 people. Nearly 100 homes were hit hard, and several people were killed.
Progress has been made in cleanup efforts related to several March tornadoes that destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes and other structures in Clermont County – as well as some property in Adams County, Brown County, and Scioto County. But work remains to be done.
That puts into perspective the task that lies ahead for our fellow Americans along the East Coast, whose lives were disrupted last month by Hurricane Sandy.
Homes, businesses, and hospitals were flooded as a result of the storm, with some structures knocked off their foundations and others crumbling or catching fire. Also damaged were bridges, tunnels, subways, and commuter rail lines.
More than 100 lives were lost, and about 1 million people had to be evacuated.
The cleanup will be a massive undertaking, costing tens of billions of dollars. The halt in business activity will result in lost revenue totaling tens of billions of dollars more.
Numerous federal agencies have deployed thousands of government workers to help, and Congress might consider increasing disaster funds to afflicted states. But it could take years for some areas to return to normal.
Some officials have suggested donations of money to agencies such as the American Red Cross. Here in Ohio’s Second Congressional District, the Blue Ash-based charity Matthew 25: Ministries also can accept supplies to aid in the relief efforts. (For information about recovery efforts and how you can help, visit this federal government website: www.usa.gov/Topics/Weather/Hurricane/sandy.shtml)
The good news in Southern Ohio is that many compassionate people are trying to help out those less fortunate, perhaps through donations to charities such as the Salvation Army or the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
If you can’t afford to donate money or goods, then consider giving some of your time.
I’ll be among hundreds who will volunteer an hour or more next week to pack food for the needy at the Freestore Foodbank in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.
Last year, the work included toting 10-pound sacks of potatoes, five-pound bags of apples, and onion sacks that weighed about two pounds. Some of the food ended up with families as far away as Scioto County – one of seven counties in Ohio’s Second Congressional District, which I represent.
While based in Hamilton County, the Freestore Foodbank helps people in 20 counties through food pantries, including residents of Clermont County, Brown County, Adams County, and Pike County. Over a three-day period before Thanksgiving last year, about 700 volunteers packed 10,200 boxes of food for distribution – including a turkey or chicken in each one. That was enough to feed more than 25,000 individuals, including 13,000 children.
At times like this, it is important to remember that we are the United States of America – with an emphasis on “United.” The strength of our Union, combined with the blessings of God, enables us to overcome tragedies
Despite the unexpected trials that arise, we will carry on – working together to rebuild.