For many families in Northwest Indiana, the holidays are not so merry and not so bright, as parents wonder how they are going to give their children a joyful holiday and still pay the bills.
According to the ALICE Report published recently by the Indiana Association of United Ways, 41 percent of Lake County households have little or no savings and are one crisis away from poverty. In Porter County, that figure is 28 percent, and in LaPorte County, it is 37 percent. Despite working hard, ALICE families often have to make tough choices between paying for housing, food, transportation, health care and child care. Gifts and holiday celebrations are beyond their reach.
Maggie is a single mother with five children under the age of 16. She is working two jobs to provide the basic necessities for her family. According to the ALICE report, she would need to make $28 per hour to be financially stable, but her income does not come anywhere near that figure. She prays her 10-year old car does not need a major repair and that she stays healthy.
There are many local nonprofit agencies and churches providing Christmas cheer for families like Maggie’s.
The Salvation Army Corps of Porter County is in the midst of the annual Angel Tree Christmas program. This program provides Christmas food and gifts to families experiencing financial hardships. This year, The Salvation Army has considerably more children than in previous years, with an increase of about 150 to 200 children. “Our biggest needs are toys and gift items for children aged 11 to 13 years,” said Kathy Childress, coordinator of the Angel Tree program.
The Salvation Army of Porter County is also in need of grocery store gift certificates. Each family in the Angel Tree program is provided with a gift certificate so that they may purchase food to prepare a Christmas meal.” The Salvation Army recommends gift certificates in $20 to $25 increments. Donations can be dropped off to The Salvation Army, 799 Capitol Road, South Haven. For more information, call (219) 762-9191.
Also helping at this time of year is Mental Health America. For over 55 years, Mental Health America of Porter County has sponsored the giftLIFT Program, providing a lift with a gift to community members in need, whose lives are impacted by mental health. In 2013 over 2,250 gifts made the holidays brighter for nearly 600 individuals and families, newborn through 85. This is Mental Health’s way of eliminating a bit of the stress that can accompany the holiday season for our community members.
The need for basic items — boots, coats, warm gloves, cleaning supplies, hygiene items: toothpaste, body wash, deodorant, tissues, etc. — is increasing. Send money to help fill the wishes. Elves will do the shopping for you. Send your tax deductible donation to Mental Health America of Porter County at 402 E. Indiana Ave., Valparaiso, IN 46383, or call (219) 462-6267.
There are many opportunities to show your appreciation for your blessings by reaching out to lend a hand to others. Join your local United Way in “Living United” during this holiday season.