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Outlook on Relief for the Needy in Wolf Point
In the past few years, services that provide for basic human needs like food, clothing, and shelter, have been on the decline in our community of Wolf Point, Montana. Families, children, and the elderly have fallen victims, due to the lack of having food banks, second hand stores, and shelters. With jobs being scarce, more families are in major need of assistance.
You can’t just define certain features of the hungry anymore in Montana. More and more families are falling victim to hunger, especially in our community of Wolf Point. According to the Montana Food Bank Network, households with children under the age of 18 are the highest percentage of the population living in poverty, at 76.6%. The Network finds 72.6% of adult-only households are living in poverty, and that 60.7% of seniors live in poverty (mfbn.org). These numbers show us the state is in trouble.
With the cost of living higher than the average household income, there is no hope the poverty rate will decrease anytime soon. Those families who depended on the extra help they got from the food banks are no longer able to make it through to the end of the month without them. We need to step up and help get those programs back into our community again. Without them, poverty is going to get worse, and families will no longer be able to provide for themselves.
Our town has many poor people who need assistance. In our small town, some people are going to bed hungry tonight. Some do not have a roof over their heads. Perhaps they are not getting enough food because there’s not enough money to make ends meet. The local food banks are closed, and we don’t have a homeless shelter.
Resources for the needy have decreased in Wolf Point. At one time, there were several resources available for needy people here in town. The Basket of Hope Food Bank and Thrift Shop was in existence since 1994, but recently closed its doors. For years, there was a food bank and thrift shop at the Silver Wolf Casino, but that closed last year too. Several second hand stores and a couple of food banks existed (the Basket of Hope, Wolf Point thrift shop at the Silver Wolf Casino, Second Generation, and Green’s Second Hand Store), but lately they all have closed down. The only services in town currently available to the poor are free meals at the tribal center (for tribal senior citizens), the senior center, and the Lord’s Table soup kitchen which is temporarily closed due to a recent break-in.
Since there are no more food banks, second hand stores, or homeless shelters in town it seems like folks have forgotten about the needs of the poor and hungry in our community. We researched the problem to see what services were still available to the needy, and what was being planned for them in the future. We wanted to know if their needs were being met, or just ignored. Has our town lost its incentive to take care of the poor?
We investigated the situation and discovered that a new food bank is in the works. Currently, there is a committee of people that is trying very hard to work out the logistics of opening a new food bank. First, the group has to establish itself to be a non-profit organization, so it can get grants and donations. If all goes well, a new food bank, under a new name, will be opening in the near future.
Once a building for a new food bank is established, there will be a great need for volunteers. The majority of volunteers in the past were retired senior citizens and community service workers. It would be helpful if we could get more young people involved to help unload trucks of food.
Despite the decline in charitable services in our community, senior services have improved over the years, mostly due to the new senior center that now serves Wolf Point. They provide meals on wheels and free commodities to seniors over sixty. In some ways, our town is meeting the needs of some, but forgetting others.
During our research of resources in our community, we have discovered there are dedicated people who genuinely care about the poor and are the pillars of charity. Darlene Johnson was one of those people who strenuously worked to help the needy in Wolf Point, but she died recently. She volunteered for many years at the Basket of Hope, and then started and ran the Wolf Point Food Bank and Thrift Shop. Her amazing dedication and several years of volunteer work have culminated in a great legacy of helping countless people. She will be greatly missed and her death is a big loss to our community. Those who are left behind need to pick up where Darlene Johnson left off. We need young people to get involved in serving the needs of the poor in our town, because over the years several older volunteers who were very active in volunteer work have died.
To better serve the needy in our community in the future, we need to teach our children to have compassion on those who are less fortunate than them. They are the adults of the future, and will need to address these problems. Some of the learning is done at home, and some learn it from within their communities. Local organizations, such as the Girl Scouts, are teaching children, at a young age, to be sensitive to the needs of the poor and to give to their communities by helping the needy with such things as canned food drives. Used clothing drives and rummage sales are also good ways to teach children to reuse and recycle their resources, to better care for their neighbors, and save our small planet earth.
Lisa Tedder and Brittney Vandall are students at Fort Peck Community College.
Montana Food Bank Network. (2014). mfbn.org