Food banks around the Rim Country are seeing a record-setting number of families in need. On Tuesday, some 350 turkey boxes were picked up from the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank and earlier in the month, 676 people received aid from St. Vincent.
Church of Christ volunteers took food baskets out to 416 individuals last Saturday.
Other churches, fire departments and individuals are helping to feed those in need. But the need is growing.
In October, 2,070 people or 624 families received a 50-pound box of food at least once, according to food bank manager Wayne Parent.
Parent said he has noticed a sharp increase in the number of people seeking help. Most are either unemployed or under employed.
On Tuesday, families joyfully picked up their turkey boxes; grateful to have everything they needed to enjoy Thanksgiving. For a brief moment, the worry on their faces washed away as an oversized box of food was placed in their hands.
One woman the Roundup spoke with said her family of four would not have celebrated were it not for the food bank.
A devastating accident left the woman permanently disabled, forcing her husband to return to Payson and leave a good paying job in Tucson. Since she cannot work, it is all she can do to look after her two small children.
“I am very grateful,” the woman said.
Dozens of other residents reported they were either out of work or working fewer hours this year, making it hard for them to afford a Thanksgiving Day feast.
In Arizona, more than 881,200 Arizonans live in poverty — that is 14.2 percent of the state’s population, according to the United Food Bank, which supplies food to Payson’s food banks.
More startling, one in five Arizonans living in poverty are children under age 18.
With all the commotion of the holidays, it is easy this time of year to forget about those less fortunate. But this is the time of year they need us most.
No families would be helped Tuesday were it not for the generous donations from Rim Country residents.
We applaud you for that, but we ask you to find more ways to give back.
There are many different ways to help.
Drop a bag of food off at any Payson Area Food Drive labeled box. Several are set up at Walmart. You can also send a check to PAFD, P.O. Box 703, Payson, AZ 85547.
Angel Trees are set up at the Payson courthouse and several local banks. And it’s always easy to toss a few coins in a Salvation Army red kettle. And don’t forget the four-legged members of our community who find themselves at the humane society.
Whatever you do, give thanks for all you have.
Senator key to independence
Gila Community College stands closer than ever before to independence. Gila County finally has representatives in the Legislature who will fight for the college.
We congratulate Sen. Sylvia Allen for fighting for GCC despite the occasional bickering and divisiveness among board members and the topic’s exhausting complexity. She, like everybody else who has fought for the college, probably sometimes wonders about the point. When the college’s own board can’t approve a resolution in support of independence the first time, why should outsiders work so hard?
But Allen sees the college’s importance and its potential. She, along with GCC board member Tom Loeffler, has spent many hours on the project. She even put her legislative career on the line by backing GCC, much to the anger of those affiliated with Eastern Arizona College.
Meanwhile, GCC Senior Dean Stephen Cullen, who serves on the task force, is an EAC employee. And the votes of board chairman Bob Ashford, also on the task force, consistently reflect EAC’s interest — not GCC’s.
We fear the implications of these allegiances as the movement to free the college gains momentum.
College advocates have worked for a decade to remove ridiculous state thresholds that prohibit the county operating an independent college.
But EAC, directly or indirectly through its employees, could still derail progress.
We call on Ashford and Cullen to act justly. Generations of future GCC students will gain from having a college under local control.
An independent school could contribute vastly to the economies of both northern and southern Gila County — more so than it can under the jurisdiction of EAC.
The time has come to rise against small differences and embrace a future that includes sovereignty. Allen put her future on the line to support GCC. So maybe the people who actually live in Gila County can do the same.