Recently a woman sent the Homer News a message through Facebook about a friend she knew who could use a little help.
“No food for Thanksgiving,” the woman wrote. “She has no transportation and no warm clothing. …Please help out my friend in any way you can. She has been selling off her personal belongings just to get food and the medicine she needs to help her excruciating pain.”
We replied back and suggested she visit the Homer Community Food Pantry and also call Share the Spirit, two of our best social services. This woman’s plight got us thinking about the California wildfires and our social safety net.
First, on this Thanksgiving our hearts go out to the Californians who have lost families, friends and homes. The deadliest wildfire in California history has killed so far 79 people and destroyed thousands of structures.
Living as we do here in forests and grasslands, we know how vulnerable the Kenai Peninsula can be. We can talk climate change, forest management and evacuation routes, but when a fire jumps a four-lane highway, that’s a different kind of beast.
How wildfires affect us involves preparation, response, community involvement, infrastructure and luck. Those also are factors in the daily challenges faced by people in poverty. Our neighbors like the woman above face personal wildfires that can be just as devastating as flames roaring down a ridge.
The Kachemak Bay Lion’s Club Thanksgiving Basket Program will get warm meals to families in need. Share the Spirit will make sure no one goes without a Christmas. The Homer Community Food Pantry feeds the poor weekly. Businesses like Safeway also help with programs like its annual $10 donation bags. Dozens of local churches also help. Government provides assistance through school lunch programs, food stamps, Medicaid and housing assistance. We know all these programs are stretched thin, though.
That someone has to write a newspaper through Facebook shows some people don’t know how to connect to social programs — or are too proud to ask. No one should have to sell off their meager goods to afford food and medicine.
We Homerites have big hearts and have always pitched in to help our neighbors. Can we do more? Of course. The holidays encourage giving, but the giving should be year round. The social safety net should be more robust. The network of care should be broader. Our compassion should be modeled on the Savior whose season Christians celebrate next month.
The wildfire of poverty roars through our community every day, and we can be firefighters who stop it in its tracks. In our gratitude this Thanksgiving, think about how we can better serve our neighbors.