Helping the needy this holiday season

By Brian Blad

In a few days, many of us will be gathering around the dinner table, joining with loved ones and celebrating one of the oldest of American traditions — Thanksgiving. Then as sure as that time-honored turkey dinner will be devoured, Christmas and the New Year will be here in short order.
For many, these holidays are happy times, filled with joy, cheer, love and celebration. But there are those among us who find these festivities especially trying. We’ve all heard the stories. The mother wondering how she will put food on the table, not only on Thanksgiving but every day before and after. The father silently agonizing over how to explain to his child there will be nothing under the Christmas tree. An elderly couple being forced to decide what bill gets paid with their fixed income — food or heat. A veteran without a roof over his head shivering in the cold as the snow bears down.
Statistically speaking, these issues aren’t mere stories and truly impact thousands of Idahoans across the state, including citizens in East Idaho. According to The Idaho Foodbank, food insecurity affects one in six Idahoans. That means more than 200,000 people in the state do not know where their next meal will be coming from. Further, the Foodbank’s partner organization Feeding America shows that in Bannock County there are 13,210 of our friends and neighbors who are wondering about that next meal. Census numbers show that poverty impacts about 18 out of every 100 Pocatellans. The National Council on Aging figures represent that 33 percent of seniors nationwide have no money left over at the end of the month, and close to 2,000 people are homeless across the Gem State, according to the Idaho Housing and Finance Association.
Thankfully — and I cannot express my gratitude enough — there are organizations, businesses and individuals in our community that have taken it upon themselves to lend a helping hand when times are tough during the holidays and beyond. Just last weekend, I was able to take part in the annual SLEDS Toy Run to help benefit the Southeast Idaho Community Action Agency (SEICAA). The ride helps SEICAA provide toys at Christmas for children and funds SEICAA’s programs that directly improve the lives of citizens in seven Southeast Idaho counties.
Meanwhile, Barrie’s Ski and Sports’ second annual “Cranksgiving” turkey drive got a boost recently from fellow business Ray’s Custom Interiors. Ray and Deanna Rosen and their staff donated 64 turkeys to the drive. Organizers hope to get 1,000 turkeys to The Idaho Foodbank to help those in need on Thanksgiving. The Foodbank is also getting support from our local Stinker Stores, which are matching customer donations dollar for dollar. Our Marshall Public Library is offering up chance for you to get rid of those overdue fines on library books through its “Food for Fines” program. Double Shot Coffee does “Tips for Turkeys” every Tuesday during the holiday season and uses the tips to purchase turkeys for the Foodbank. On Thanksgiving Day, the folks with Puerto Vallarta and First National Bar will each be hosting a free thanksgiving dinner at their respective establishments. In addition to SLEDS’ work, Christmas morning will also be made just a bit better thanks to the diligent work of the Steven D. Merrell Marine Corps League Detachment #698’s Toys for Tot campaign. There are numerous drop-off boxes around town, including City Hall.
Earlier this year, the Greater Pocatello Association of Realtors donated more than 30 coats to the children of Pocatello/Chubbuck School District #25. The Idaho State Journal is currently working with The Salvation Army to round-up winter apparel including gloves, scarves and jackets. The Homeless & Housing Coalition of South East Idaho is collecting nice, warm, wooly socks for our homeless. You can drop off your sock donations at City Hall as well.
The people and organizations I’ve listed above are by no means exhaustive. There are hundreds — and it may very well be thousands — in this community who are doing what they can to assist and comfort those in need. I commend you all for your diligence and hard work in helping your fellow man. If you’d like to help and haven’t yet, please do. It doesn’t take much. A few cans of food, a pack of socks or just checking in on your elderly neighbors is all you need to do to make a difference in a life.

This column was submitted by Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad.