Now is the time to unite against poverty

Democrats. Republicans. Red states. Blue states. Iowa caucuses. New Hampshire primary. Values voters. Soccer moms. NASCAR dads.

During the 2004 presidential election, the country was divided into such categories, making this one of the most polarizing elections ever. Now that the dust has settled, it is time for the nation to turn its attention to more pressing matters, such as the 110 million Americans living in or near poverty.

There is no shortage of poor here in New Hampshire, from Pelham to Pittsburg, from Winchester to Rochester. Americans across the country are going without dinner, sleeping in their cars and skipping medical appointments.

Though the election was dominated by discussions on moral issues, such as gay marriages and abortion rights, poverty was rarely mentioned. Whether or not you agreed with these moral issues, most will agree that it is unacceptable for a single mother’s cupboards to be bare, a family to sleep in their car or for a child not to visit the doctor for regular checkups. This is the daily scenario experienced by the working poor and, increasingly, some in the middle class.

The woman sitting next to you in church that always helps out with bake sales could be facing bankruptcy. The waiter serving you at your favorite restaurant might have gone years without visiting a doctor because he doesn’t have health insurance. The girl whose locker is next to your daughter’s might eat only once a day because her mother has been out of work for months. And the boy on your son’s soccer team might have to practice on the school playground because the homeless shelter he lives in is surrounded by criminals and miscreants.

New Hampshire’s six Community Action Agencies – Tri-County Community Action Program, Community Action Program Belknap-Merrimack Counties, Strafford County Community Committee, Southwestern Community Services, Rockingham Community Action and Southern New Hampshire Services – offer Granite State residents a chance to move on and unite once again by supporting our efforts to eradicate poverty. We invite our neighbors throughout New Hampshire to contact their local CAA to learn how we help low-income residents change their lives and how they can help us fight poverty.

Our national organization, the Community Action Partnership, has named May National Community Action Month to pay tribute to the poverty-fighting efforts of Community Action Agencies across the country. This year’s theme is unity, because unity is essential to all aspects of our lives, including fighting poverty.

Poverty knows no boundaries and increasingly, any one of us could fall into its grasp. We need to stand tall and strong together against this looming threat. The Community Action motto is “Helping People. Changing Lives,” and this year we are celebrating our 40th anniversary.

Democrats. Republicans. Red states. Blue states. Iowa caucuses. New Hampshire Primary. Values voters. Soccer moms. NASCAR dads. Let’s make an effort to relinquish these labels and unite under the common theme – Americans who are working together to protect our country by fighting poverty.

Gale Hennessy is president of the New Hampshire Community Action Association and executive director of Southern New Hampshire Services, Hillsborough County’s Community Action Agency. He can be reached at 800-322-1073.

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