Thursday, December 10, 2015

On Poverty, Progress, and the CAC

There has been much discussion in recent days on the fundamental question, “What does it mean to be American?” 

Personally, I believe one hallmark of the American character is a certain generosity of spirit that stems from a recognition that we are all imperfect yet we want to improve not only our lot, but the well-being of those we call our neighbors.

Those of us in Howard County are fortunate insofar as many of our neighbors, from a pocketbook perspective, are not struggling.   But “many” is not all, and when it comes to poverty, some is too many.

Hunger is non-partisan, as is poverty.  The eradication of both, in a county of plenty, can and should be a top-of-mind issue, and goal, for 2016. 

In terms of numbers, 5.3% of Howard County’s population live in poverty, this translates to thousands of our fellow denizens.  Moreover, almost one in four (22.5%) single women who are the head of their household and who have children under five live below the poverty line.

As careful readers will recall from early 2015, before my new position brought me to the functional equivalent of a literary Elba, I wanted to spend more time talking about organizations doing good and important work in our communities.  With that, along with the aforementioned challenges foremost in mind, I want to spend a minute talking about the Community Action Council of Howard County (  

Feel free to click on that link.  I can wait a moment... 

Back?  Excellent.  The Community Action Council (CAC for short) has been on the frontlines of “helping people help themselves” as their President, Bita Dayhoff, describes in a letter outlining the mission of the organization.  This is key.  The CAC is focused not only on helping out those most in need of help, in terms of such needs as housing, energy, childhood education, and food, but also assisting them on the road to self-sufficiency.  And this is not a seasonal focus, but one that is addressed “24/7/365” as the saying goes.  Moreover, they help literally thousands of people, every single year.

The spectrum of services offered by the Community Action Council is broad yet bound by the common thread of helping those of us who are in a tough spot.  The dedication of this organization, their staff, volunteers, and partners, deserves recognition.  Beyond that, the questions must be raised, what systems can be put into place to help groups like the CAC achieve their mission?  What can be done, by the private and public sectors alike, to help ensure that all of our neighbors have full access to the promise of Howard County?

As long as poverty and hunger (and related issues) afflict our fellow residents, I plan on revisiting these topics throughout the New Year. I am hopeful that our collective can-do spirit, another American hallmark, will help yield creative and practical solutions to these challenges.  By building on the work of groups like the Community Action Council, I am optimistic that we can find novel ways to help our neighbors.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

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