By Robert Stoneback
The Daily Item
LEWISBURG — More than 50 people came to Beaver Memorial United Methodist Church’s poverty summit on Sunday to devise ways to help the needy.
“We’ve been working on this for almost nine months,” said Kerry Shirk, a member of the church’s social concerns team.
“This event is to educate people of the needs in the area” and tell them what they can do to help, Shirk said.
A common misconception, said team member Cliff Brown, is that poverty is brought about by someone’s personal failings or lack of character. It can happen to anyone, and can stem from being laid off, having to pay high medical bills or other setbacks, he said.
“Almost everyone lives paycheck to paycheck these days,” Brown said.
Missing one paycheck can be the difference between making a house payment or not, he added.
According to the most recent U.S. Census, 12 percent of Union County’s citizens are living below the poverty line. The numbers for neighboring counties are 11.2 percent for Snyder County, 13.7 percent for Northumberland County and 10.4 percent for Montour County. The census set the 2012 poverty level at $15,374 for two people and $23,681 for a family of four.
Keynote speakers at the summit were Seneca Foote, retired CEO of Lewisburg’s Albright Care Services, Christy Zeigler, assistant director of Sunbury’s Haven Ministries, and Kathy Storm, director of the Union County Food Bank.
Foote’s volunteer group, Dinner by the River, regularly offers meals at area churches. Dinner by the River doesn’t ask about a family’s income level, which helps put some attendees more at ease, he said. Foote’s group is always looking for volunteers to help prepare and serve meals.
Haven Ministries provides temporary rooms for families. It has eight rooms with multiple beds: five for families, a dormitory for women and a dormitory for men. The eighth room was another family room, but it is being converted into a second men’s dorm because of the high number of men in the area seeking shelter.
Storm’s food bank provides for needy families in eastern Union County and regularly receives donations and support from area farmers and vendors.
“The food bank is blessed to be a part of Lewisburg,” Storm said. “Our goal is simply that no one in eastern Union County goes to bed hungry or underclothed.”
Attending the event were the directors and organizers of several area charities devoted to helping needy families.
“This community is so good at responding to needs,” said Andrea Tufo, director of Lewisburg’s Donald Heeter Community Center, which aids in food distribution and clothing drives for local families.“When I look around the room, I see so many people who are helpful and responsive.”