The definition of community

In Matthew 26:11 it says: “For ye have the poor always with you, but me ye have not always.” (King James Version).

Locally we have hungry children and adults. The fact that some adults are hungry is of concern to most of us but hungry kids in our town is an intolerable situation. Thankfully, some local organizations are doing something about both groups.

Years ago before the “nanny state” was in full bloom, churches took care of the poor. In some faiths there still is “Boxing Day” (26 December) which was traditionally the date when the box circulated at Christmas services for the benefit of the poor was opened and distributed. There were hospitals and “homes” operated by sectarian groups for the benefit of the poor, elderly, and disadvantaged. We can still see evidence of this religious tradition in the names like St Mary’s Hospital in Saginaw or our own seniors’ Lutheran Manor.

The churches, through the last part of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th century lobbied hard to have the government take over these types of services and, consequently, pretty much put themselves out of the charity business. That trend now is reversing itself as religious and non-sectarian groups are returning to food programs.

In Alpena alone we have at least five groups feeding the disadvantaged. Six days a week the Friendship Room at St Bernard’s is feeding an evening meal to about 85-90 souls or 24,000 meals each year. Trinity Episcopal takes up the slack on Sundays serving another 2,600 meals annually. This takes care of some of the adult hunger problem.

During the school year, children get a school lunch but some were going hungry on weekends for one or more of a number of reasons. Resurrection Lutheran Church got wind of the problem and started to make available food packs for home use and sent home 35,274 nutritional supplements in the last school year.

For six years, the Salvation Army has sponsored a summer lunch program at its North Side location. In 2013, it served 1,888 lunches in a nine week program Monday through Friday. That example has been expanded to the south side of the river.

The Alpena Boys and Girls Club has a 10-week program at its building at the corner of Seventh and River and is serving 200 lunches each week or 2,000 each summer. Resurrection Lutheran has just begun a similar program at Ella White School but with being up and running only three days as of this writing, there are no meaningful attendance numbers at this time. As if packing 35,000 food packages in the winter was not enough, they are providing 50-120 food packs for distribution from Salvation Army, Boys and Girls Club, and Ella White for the summer.

These groups aren’t the only ones involved in this process as there are other individuals who are not affiliated with them who also are volunteering money and time to this important effort. This is all about local people helping local people. This is what “community” is all about.

In Matthew 28:19 it says: “Go ye forth therefore, and teach all nations…” In these uncertain times, is there a resurgence of religion and traditional values? Are there enough people slipping through the big government safety net that our churches and civic groups are starting to supply social services and will we see a resurgence in this type of activity? Be impressed that these groups are reaching out to their neighbors with a helping hand.