OUR CORNER: As always, people are willing to help

The other day I learned another friend had been laid off.

The economy may be looking up, but it’s far from sunny.

Christmas brings out the giving hearts in communities, but I am thankful we live among folks who give year round.

For example, Sheila Smith stopped by recently to let me know the need for new underwear and socks for school-age children is great. Sheila runs the Enumclaw and White River school district clothing banks. The Buckley clothing bank is named in memory of her father Donald Loomis.

When Sheila asks, Sheila receives. The community has always rallied to her call to clothe toddlers to teens no matter the time of year.

Last year, the Buckley clothing bank helped more than 475 people, infants to adults. The Enumclaw clothing bank saw a tremendous increase in users, helping 1,400 people in the area, up from 900.

Those aren’t the only numbers up.

We feel our family is blessed and in return we do what we can to help Plateau Outreach Ministries in Enumclaw. It’s amazing to read the statistics in the newsletter we receive quarterly. In the third quarter of this year, POM’s food bank served an average of 322 households – 26,522 pounds of food donated, 38,485 pounds of food went back out the door to needy neighbors.

In that same time period, POM’s Samaritan Project helped Plateau residents keep a roof over their head by assisting with rent; covered expensive, but necessary prescriptions; provided emergency shelter from the below-freezing temperatures; kept the lights and heat on in a number of homes and a number of other necessities you and I take for granted.

POM leaders interviewed 145 clients and provided vouchers for financial assistance to 101.

For those who don’t know, the churches of the Plateau Ministerial Association formed POM more than a decade ago to answer the call to Love Your Neighbor.

POM helps those in crisis two ways, with food, clothing, housing and emergency financial assistance in the form of vouchers and case management. Its loving arms stretch around the Enumclaw School District, Buckley, Wilkeson, Carbonado, South Prairie and Black Diamond.

A grant is helping with renovations at POM’s building so it can better serve its user base. Its annual spaghetti dinner and auction in October generated $21,000 for local families, but it goes fast. That money raised can be handed out as vouchers in about three months. I know another fundraiser is planned for New Year’s that usually brings in $8,000.

The Courier-Herald partners with POM for its Neighbors in Need program, a big fundraising event for the organization that helps it get through the winter months. I’m sure you’ve been reading the stories each week by POM Director Britt Nelson. The stories are about people we know. They truly are our neighbors in need.

The needs don’t stop after the holiday season.

POM’s food bank, as well as the Kiwanis food banks in Enumclaw and Buckley, are always in need of canned vegetables, meats, stews, chili, macaroni and cheese, as well as toilet paper, diapers, tissues and other toiletries.

We have friends who live in Bonney Lake and are amazed at how difficult it is to keep food on the shelves at the food banks there.

The community recently responded to a call for help from the food banks, but those donations disappear from shelves in short order.

A Bonney Lake-Sumner Courier-Herald article reported food banks in that area are serving an average of 1,200 families or more a month.

Similar to Sheila’s program, the Bonney Lake-Sumner schools are fortunate to have the Lions 4 Kids House to supply much-needed clothing. Organizers there have also seen an increase in visitors.

Bonney Lake and Sumner are communities where the needy and homeless may be harder to see on the streets, but as we are finding out, these days those most in need are likely living right next door.

It’s good to know no matter where you live on the Plateau or in the valley, there are giving hearts and places folks can turn when they are stretched too thin.