February 16, 2011; Source: The Daily Times | Sometimes, in this sector, we tend to parrot phrases until they are virtually meaningless. Since the start of the downturn, for instance, we at NPQ along with many others have been acknowledging that there is a problem embedded in the combo of reduced resources and increased community need. This article from The Daily Times details exactly what that means in human terms in Blount County, Tenn.

The article starts by telling the story of one woman who went straight from the hospital where she had had surgery to a church-based help center called Good Neighbors to get assistance with a large back utility bill. She was “panic stricken” in the words of a volunteer. Another anecdote tells of a food pantry, located at Fairview United Methodist Church that had seen 95 people, a full 44 of which were completely new – not having applied for such help previously.

Good Neighbors reports that it has been seeing double and sometimes triple the number of people they would normally – almost 700 in the month of January – as a result of the downturn and the abnormally harsh winter. Good Neighbors can only provide $50 to $75 on bills that may range in the $300 – $500 range. The same is true of many other small community resource centers, but they are the only games in town since the Blount County Community Action Agency has run completely out of state and individually donated funds for this purpose. The local United Way, which refers people to resources, says that the list of the organizations that can help in any way is dwindling.

At the Chilhowee Baptist Association, Rick Meyer observed, “I don’t remember a time that there has been as many people calling, requesting help . . . I am going to spend all of my May, June, July, August and September funds now.”—Ruth McCambridge