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Editorial: Poverty is problem for all in county

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Perhaps it is the season and the spirit of giving associated with it that foster a greater awareness about those within our community who struggle for even the most basic sustenance.

Poverty in Bartholomew County is an unpleasant fact of life that draws special attention at this time of year.

That there are poor people living within the borders of a community celebrated for such assets as world-famous architecture, a strong business climate and a reputation for giving is an accepted reality. The extent of that poverty, however, often comes as a shock to many.

A set of statistics highlighted in a story earlier this month about the significant number of county residents who need the services of local food pantries can only be described as staggering.

Although the median household income in Bartholomew County was pegged at $49,045 in the 2010 Census, 12.8 percent of the county’s residents lived below the poverty line. The most startling statistic in the report, however, was that 57 percent of the residents in the Flat Rock-Hawcreek area were below the poverty line.

While there are avenues for assistance that are directly available to residents in the Flat Rock-Hawcreek community, such as the Community Center of Hope, it is important to acknowledge that this is not a parochial issue but a countywide situation.

There are a number of county agencies that Hope area residents can use. For instance, the Columbus Firemen’s Cheer Fund provided toys for 1,218 children this year and 216 food boxes for families. That gift-giving is not limited to city boundaries. In the 1980s the Cheer Fund board of directors expanded its distribution area beyond city limits to include county residents.

County residents also are able to obtain food from Love Chapel’s pantry on Center Street in Columbus.

Unfortunately, poverty is not a seasonal situation. It is also not balanced. As the statistics relating to the number of families living below the poverty line attest, the situation in the Flat Rock-Hawcreek area is distinctly greater than anywhere else.

The Hope area is not the only pocket of poverty in the county, but regardless of geographic boundaries, this is an issue that affects and involves all of Bartholomew County.

As such, addressing it requires the collaboration of organizations and agencies in the public and private sectors with the goal of improving the quality of life for all residents of Bartholomew County regardless of where they live.

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