(Today's guest blog was written by my friend Mary Mulligan. Mary and I went to college together and she grew up in the very small town of Lake Village, Arkansas. She emailed when she heard this news about her hometown and subsequently wrote this guest blog. It's a reminder that abundance is a blessing. - Melinda)
I truly felt abundance this year during the holidays in every sense of the word. Over Thanksgiving and during holiday parties in December, I gathered with old and new friends over tables filled with delicious and nourishing foods, lovingly prepared and beautifully presented. I felt the warmth of friendship and the joy of fellowship at these events, and was thankful for my blessings.
In this time of abundance and warmth, I was jolted by an article in my hometown newspaper, the Chicot County Spectator. This year in particular, the Lake Village Food Pantry has had unprecedented demand for food and is seeking donations to keep up with the demand for basic supplies like bread, milk and cheese.
Chicot County, Arkansas is the poorest, most rural county in my home state. Thirty-three percent of residents live below the poverty line. Why? The local economy is based primarily on farming, which provides low paying and seasonal jobs. Folks get by as best they can. That means many of the working poor count on the Lake Village Food Pantry to feed themselves and their children.
Growing up in Chicot Count, I wasn't fully aware of the dire conditions around me though I did notice differences. At school, I definitely noticed classmates who were always very hungry at lunch, scrapped their plates clean and regularly asked for more of whatever was being served in the cafeteria. I can still see their eager faces in front of their lunch trays and their wide eyes at seconds.
At the time, I don't believe I realized that they were probably only being feed a hot meal at school. I also remember my parents taking me and a 5-year old friend to the Dairy Queen for a snack and giving us each a quarter. Surprisingly, my friend had no idea what to order because she had never had any store-bought treats. I also remember going over to a neighborhood kid's house after school and there was no food in the kitchen other than a loaf of bread and a plastic tub of margarine. Puzzled by this, I asked him what he'd have for dinner. He said toast, and then told me that his family would buy food when his mother got paid on Friday. At the time, I just thought some families had less than ours but I didn't realize that neighbors were probably going to bed hungry.
Now, the Lake Village Food Pantry fills the gap and provides necessary food for the working poor. It helps families feed their children. Even the smallest donation to this wonderful organization will add up to a significant gesture.
The Lake Village Food Pantry especially needs support this year because cut backs in state and federal funding have dramatically reduced its budget to provide food. It's hard to believe that children and senior citizens will go hungry because the food pantries they depend on have been denied funding due to government gridlock and infighting. That's why this year I supported the Lake Village Food Pantry. Can you do the same?
Dec. 20: The Lake Village Food Pantry, 311 Jackson Street, Lake Village, Arkansas 71653. Attn:: Neil Sloan.