CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With recent statistics pointing out that almost 30 percent of West Virginia's children under age 5 live below the poverty level, and 43,254 West Virginians under age 18 lived in poverty in 2008, it is baffling to consider that so much of the remedying of this atrocity is shouldered by organizations -- both religious and secular -- which has become something of an enigma.
To home in on a specific area that has seen its fair share of this cruelty, Fayette County ranks as one of the highest in number of children living below the poverty level, according to a recent report from the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. The report "Child Poverty in West Virginia: A Growing and Persistent Problem" goes on to say that West Virginia ranks as the 13th highest state in the nation for children living below the federal poverty line.
While the Upper Kanawha Valley has historically met the challenges of social, cultural, and economic demands in a part of the state that has not lacked leadership, but has been faced with external factors often beyond their control (i.e., basic infrastructure) they remain a steadfast, "salt-of-the-earth" populace that continues to embrace new ideas and strategies, with a "can-do" attitude. They have held firm to their commitment to and support of WVU-Tech, their fierce loyalty to the coal mining industry, and their open-door policy to accepting folks from all walks of life, whether those folks are there temporarily or whether they have made a long-term commitment to serving the community.
However, there is a contingency that has become complacent, wearing a cloak of apathy and aloofness. Instead of asking ourselves, "What can I do?" we should offer, "Give me something to do."
As Mother Teresa said, "God does not ask us to succeed; He only asks that we try." It's that simple, and apparently that complicated, as well.
A former pastor of Immaculate Conception/St. Anthony parish in Montgomery continued to hold fast to his belief that unless we, as a community, reach out to all members in need throughout our community and shout a call to act, we are not being totally christian. If all we ever did was attend mass and keep to our study groups, what was the purpose -- other than to entertain one another and gain knowledge? Knowledge gained without putting it into action reaps very little benefit.
Leaders of the Upper Kanawha Valley are being called to take a stand against and eventually eliminate the unacceptable number of children living in poverty, particularly in their own backyards. It is as firm a call to action as Robert F. Kennedy so clearly stated: "The problem of poverty is the problem of youth, whether they hang around at the site of a muddy road in West Virginia or on a street corner in Harlem. They can be found, differing only in number, in every city and hamlet in the United States."
Jacobs, a freelance writer in Charleston, grew up in Fayette County.