For Harbor Country, 2014 marked the end of a wonderful service to Harbor Country residents: Help for Southwest Michigan. The individuals involved in this program served the needs of many in our community until 2014. One of the motivators of their service resulted from the response of a community survey, which assessed the needs of those living in Harbor Country. Volunteers congregated, a space was rented, and a group of community members collectively volunteered many of hours of time to serve those in need of social services in our community. Out of this effort emerged a comprehensive directory, outlining our area’s social service agencies. These directories live on, and continue to assist individuals in connecting with those who can assist. Our area of Harbor Country, although aesthetically beautiful and full of beautiful neighbors, easily hides the face of poverty. Poverty itself is ugly, because it represents an injustice, but the injustice calls each of us to action.
United Way provides statistical data through the ALICE report, and reveals the reality of poverty for our area here in Southwest Michigan. Read these statistics for Berrien County starting on p. 94, and let allow yourself to be shocked by the overwhelming needs in our communities. ALICE report
In recent weeks, I had the chance to speak to a few of the volunteers from Help For Southwest Michigan, and was thankful to receive wisdom about how to move forward doing similar work in the same geographic area. The Pokagon Fund, which supports initiatives toward “the alleviation of poverty, education, and community vitality” has placed funding behind an initiative called Neighbor By Neighbor, Connecting Harbor Country Residents to Social Services.
Neighbor By Neighbor is not a replacement for Help for Southwest Michigan, but it serves a similar mission to help others, neighbor by neighbor. It also builds itself on the solid foundation of years of good service in our community. It values the truth that every person has something to contribute to our community, and the reality that all of us need some measure of support along the way. We need encouragement, empowerment, and for those around us to take notice of what we might be able to contribute. Neighbor By Neighbor believes in the assumption that our own initiative to work is life-giving and transformative to ourselves and those around us. Thank you, Help for Southwest Michigan, for your great effort to be neighborly in our community!