The Bethany House needs your help.
The charitable organization’s needs have more than doubled over the last few years, according to director Judy Roark. When she started with the organization, she said, they would feed around 40 to 50 families a month.
Last month, she said, they fed 444 families. This month they’re already on target to exceed that number.
That’s families, not individuals.
It’s a huge number of people to feed, and the need is only growing.
Roark said it’s an “uneasy time” for families, and her organization is trying to help in any way they can.
Mostly it’s through food assistance, but they see people who also need clothing, soap and hygiene items, and other household supplies. While the Bethany House will accept donations of any of those items, the best way to help them is probably with cash. Cash allows them to directly purchase the items they need to feed families, and to obtain those items that might not be available among the donated clothing or household goods.
It’s especially hard for the elderly, Roark said. They often live on very tight budgets, and some of the people they help are lucky to have $50 left at the end of the month, for food and other household needs, after paying utilities and buying medications.
“People say they can get food stamps,” she said, but what’s available for an individual doesn’t go far, if they even qualify. Plus, there is the fact that it can be difficult for some of them to navigate the bureaucracy around government assistance programs.
And food stamps can’t help with those other needs Bethany House helps folks with.
The thing that really tugged at my heart strings though was the need for pet food among the elderly.
In his later years, after my grandmother passed, my grandpa’s most loyal and constant companion was a small poodle mix he called Bulldog. Bulldog – named Versace by his original owner, or Virgil Saychee as my grandpa pronounced it – earned his new name by regularly and enthusiastically barking at the bull in a field adjacent to the cemetery where my grandmother was buried. When he wanted to talk to her, but didn’t want to burden his children or grandchildren – or simply wanted a little privacy – Bulldog made sure he never had to be alone during those emotional visits.
I’m positive there were times, in his grief, when that little dog was exactly what he needed to provide him company and comfort.
My grandfather had children and grandchildren who loved him. He had people who made sure he was taken care of, and well fed, and didn’t have to stay at home alone after his health deteriorated.
But not everyone is so fortunate. For some, their Bulldog might be the only real companionship they have.
It’s easy to say things like, “If you can’t afford to feed yourself, you can’t afford to have pets.”
Critics of food stamps and welfare programs often say the same thing about children as well.
But I’m not here to argue about economic policy or fiscal responsibility or other theoreticals and hypotheticals. I’m here to talk about the real lives of real people.
I’m here to talk about basic human decency, and the importance of those of us with a little more sometimes lending a helping hand to our friends and neighbors, so they can meet their basic needs.
Basic needs that include food and clothing, but also companionship and love. It doesn’t matter if those last two come from family, or friends, or pets. What matters is that they’re just as important to our mental health as nutritional food and clean water are to our physical health.
Please keep that, and the good work Bethany House does, in mind next time you’re feeling charitable. Cash donations are always helpful, but if this story comes to mind when you’re going down the pet food aisle, consider picking up an extra bag of whatever you feed your own cat or dog and donating it to Bethany House, along with whatever else your heart tells you to share.
If you want to do more, they’re always looking for help too. Their programs run entirely on volunteer efforts, and they can always find some way for you to put your talents to work for others.
If you do wish to donate, or to volunteer, you can call them at 286-5045.
I know they will appreciate whatever you can offer.