By The Canton Repository Editorial Board
Posted Sep 9, 2018 at 6:31 AM
In his State of the Union address in 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a “War on Poverty.”
The resulting legislation and numerous programs, and their success or lack thereof, have served as a basis of debate for Democrats and Republicans in government for five decades-plus and counting.
No matter your perspective on the best way to address the needs of those occupying the lowest rungs of the economic ladder, the fact remains: Millions across the country and thousands in Stark County need assistance, and those who occupy higher rungs can help and are called to help.
One of the more visible ways kicked off Friday, when the United Way of Greater Stark County launched its annual fundraising campaign.
Our United Way seeks to: improve the overall health — physical, mental and emotional — for everyone in our community; enable all students to reach age-appropriate milestones in education, including graduation and advancement into post-education careers; and create economic opportunities that lead to financial independence.
United Way’s ambitious goals are accomplished through such programs as the Financial Prosperity Center, which helps individuals and families become financially stable; Get Connected, which partners high school juniors and seniors with local workplaces, where they can build relationships leading to employment opportunities; and an Emergency Assistance Collaborative that provides temporary financial support for such basic needs as rent payments and utility bills.
This year, programming is focusing on “ALICE.” That’s the name given to those living and working in Stark County — men and women — who earn up to twice the federal poverty level for income but still struggle month to month to make ends meet. They live on the edge financially, often needing assistance to afford some of the basics the more affluent in our community take for granted.
An estimated 40,000 households in Stark County fit the ALICE definition. It stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained and Employed. In nearly all cases, these neighbors of ours aren’t “deadbeats” or “slackers.” Circumstances, however, limit their ability to earn enough money to afford life’s essentials.
In a poverty report released late last year, data showed more than half of all jobs in Ohio pay less than $40,000 a year. Income differences were more pronounced among groups that traditionally earn less, including women, people of color, young veterans and people with disabilities or a history of incarceration.
In an open letter published in Friday’s edition of The Canton Repository, Maria Heege, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Stark County, wrote that “helping one person helps the entire community.”
“We aren’t afraid to take on the toughest challenges, and we don’t give up when the going gets tough,” Heege wrote. “Thanks to the generous gifts of people like you, we are more than the fundraisers. We are the handraisers, the gamechangers.”
These days there’s little consensus among so-called political leaders for how to solve deep-rooted problems that affect so many in our community. While they squabble, it’s up to us to step in.
The annual fundraising campaign will run through Dec. 7. Many workplaces participate. Individuals also can donate by calling 330-491-0445, texting UWSTARK to 41444 or going to https://uwstark.org.
We encourage support of the United Way’s annual fundraising drive and the continued effort to reach every “ALICE” who needs our help.