Monday, June 12, 2006

Unbelievable Growth in Demand for a Helping Hand

We've never seen anything quite like the current upsurge in demand for the "helping hand up" provided by our various services and opportunities here at Central Dallas Ministries.

Across the board, organization-wide all of our metrics are not only up, they are soaring upward.

Take our overcrowded Resource Center on Haskell Avenue, the home of our "food pantry."

Several years ago we renamed the center, since it provides so much more than simply food products to low-income individuals and families. It truly is a center for the distribution of all sorts of resources and referrals.

Comparing the first five months of 2006 with the same period last year, demand in this center is up 37%.

The month of May 2006 turned out to be our busiest month in our history. We served 4,036 individuals. Our numbers compared to May 2005 were up 62%!

A number of factors may explain the growth:

. . . reduction in services offered in other locations around the city

. . . growth in the number of families whose income is not allowing them to keep up with their monthly expenses

. . . growing awareness in the community of the work of CDM

. . . expansion of the number of individuals and families falling below the poverty line.

I expect the list of reasons is long.

The growth is not a good thing.

From a management perspective it creates major problems for us. There is no way to plan for or to anticipate this kind of growth.

As a result, we are in a tough place from a financial standpoint today.

Summers are always tight for us.

But with this kind of growth, we are facing huge challenges. More and more of our funding is coming by way of grants and contracts. These funds are restricted and can be used only for designated programs.

Historically, most of our food costs have been covered by unrestricted donations to our general fund.

But this year individual donations are down

I see no end in sight for the growing demand.

Anyone out there have a rich uncle?

Seriously, we need help in spreading the word about the rising tide of need among working, low-income persons who live in Dallas, Texas. And we need to find serious, dedicated new donors.

Last week representatives from Kraft Foods came by to deliver a check and to tour the Resource Center. They were amazed at the crowds and the process.

As we walked through the center, one gentleman commented, "This growth is great! You are doing a wonderful job."

I had to correct him.

"Thanks for the encouragement and for your support," I told him. "But, you know the growth is not a good thing. Increasing numbers of hungry and poor people can never be good."

Of course, he agreed.

It is easy to lose you way in terms of facing and responding to poverty. Sometimes an organization's charitable mission can blind it to the real bottom line: things should be different in a city and a nation like this.

Any rich uncles out there?


Anonymous said...

I have no doubt that there are thousands of people who need help, but could it also be that the word gets around that there is free food?

Larry James said...

Anonymous, come down and spend a day. I think you will have your answer.

It is definitely true that people find us via "word of mouth." But that has been the case from the beginning. . .so, the growth we now have cannot be explained in this way.

On top of that, come talk to our neighbors who come to us for groceries and other matters. No one enjoys coming here. And it is not a case of people doing well and coming by to knock a few bucks off the family grocery bill.

A good and necessary exercise is to attempt to put yourself and your family in the position of needing to come to a place like ours to make ends meet each month. How would that feel? How would that look in your mind?

The need is growing and growing dramtically. My faith says we need to respond and we need to respond more adequately than we are currently.

L.E.Meredith said...

It is not a good thing that the need is there, but it is a wonderful thing that help is there.

Anonymous said...

Some people have absolutely no concept of reality. We are in bad times economically and most people who ask for help need it.

There is nothing more invalidating than to tell someone that they are just leaching food off a charity or if they are unemployed and unable to find work, to blame them for still being unemployed because they "haven't tried hard enough."