By NEMS Daily Journal
Having just celebrated the birth of the Christ child in a cold and dirty stable, it’s a good time to take stock of where our communities are in caring for those in need and on the margins of society.
No one carries on that work with more persistence and efficiency than the Salvation Army. The economic downturn hit the Army in two ways in recent years: Donations fell as people had less capacity to give, and greater need arose for its services as more people fell victim to economic distress.
The Salvation Army’s ministries have adjusted to the reality of fewer resources, but when its Angel Tree project – the Christmas collection for needy children – appeared in jeopardy earlier this month, a call went out and people responded. The generous spirit of Northeast Mississippians was once again in view.
At the same time, the Food for Families drive coordinated by WTVA and supported by the Daily Journal and other local media outlets and businesses came to a successful conclusion, helping to restock depleted food banks serving the region. This again demonstrated that people in our area feel connected and responsible for the well-being of neighbors in need.
The week before Christmas, the United Way of Northeast Mississippi announced that it had met and exceeded its $2.2 million goal to support 65 nonprofit agencies in seven counties. When all pledges are in, United Way will likely bring in more than the $2,244,000 it raised in 2010. That’s a remarkable feat, considering the continuing economic uncertainty of the last year.
The economic signs are beginning to get better. Toyota’s opening and other positive developments provide hope that the worst days of the recession are behind us.
But even as the economy improves, the needs will still be there. They may not be as great, or in some cases as urgent, but Northeast Mississippians will continue to be called on to meet the needs of their neighbors.
We have a long history of such response, and structures in the community have evolved to be ready to assist. One of the more recent examples has been the Tree of Life Clinic in Tupelo, which since opening two years ago has met a tremendous need for medical care and which is about to open a dental facility. This ministry complements the work of the long-established Good Samaritan Free Clinic, another example of the community’s commitment to extending a helping hand.
Christmas at its heart is about the connection of all humanity through the divine incarnation. No one is left out of God’s human family. The examples cited above give tangible expression to that reality.