The Payson Food Drive is struggling here in the home stretch.
With only weeks to go, backers have raised $38,000 in cash and gathered up 33,000 pounds of food. This compares to a goal of $50,000 in cash and 65,000 pounds of food.
The need among struggling Rim Country families for a little extra help to stave off hunger remains acute — with unemployment just barely below 8 percent almost three years after the official end of the recession.
We urgently hope that this winter will mark the end of the urgent need to mount a community food drive to supplement the valiant efforts of Rim Country food banks.
We have solid reasons for that hope.
First, we remain confident that 2013 will finally bring the long-awaited agreement with Arizona State University to build a 6,000-student campus here. The announcement alone will jump-start the lagging local economy — especially when combined with the array of spin-off businesses that will come as part of the deal.
Second, even without an ASU deal, Payson’s revenues in the past year have grown across the board — including local sales tax, state-shared income tax, vehicle license taxes, building fees, plan review fees, gas tax and state shared sales tax. In some cases, those increases have proven substantial — especially when it comes to the building permits and plan fees — both canaries in our economic coal mine.
Third, the real estate market in the Valley has reported substantial gains in the course of the past year. Historically, Rim Country’s housing market has followed the trends set in the Valley.
Fourth, the start of construction on the Blue Ridge pipeline this year along Houston Mesa Road will make Payson one of the few communities in this state with sufficient water for all its future needs. We believe businesses, developers, second-homeowners and job-generating industries will take note.
So we believe that 2013 will mark an economic turnaround for Rim Country on many fronts.
But the promise of the future does not put food on the table of the present.
So we hope you’ll dig deep once more, as you have done so generously in each of these lingering winters of our discontent. This community has again and again showed its heart by supporting the community food drive. We also planted and harvested one of the most productive community gardens in the state, with much of the crop going to help our struggling neighbors.
Fortunately, the Payson Area Food Drive has qualified as a charity covered by the state’s “working poor” tax credit program. If you took advantage of the credit last year, you can donate again this year and take $200 per person off this year’s tax obligation.
Many of the people who have so generously supported an array of community groups through these hard times may be feeling weary in the face of the seemingly unending need. That could account for the lagging totals for the Food Drive so far this year. However, we think that some difficulties in coordinating efforts between the community food drive and St. Vincent de Paul’s Food Bank may actually explain much of the seeming decline in contributions. With a change in administrators at St. Vincent, the gifts of some donors may not have been included in the community campaign’s total.
In any case, we have just a few weeks left to provide the food banks with the support they need to get our neighbors through this one more bleak winter.
We know you’ll respond as you always have — and come through in the home stretch for our hometown.