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Alone With J

July 3, 2012

By J SWYGART
        I’ve long been of the belief that “it takes a village to raise a child” is little more than a warm and fuzzy catch-phrase that gives some degree of credence to well-meaning civic activists attempting to dabble in social interaction and to cure social ills that are often well outside their individual and collective areas of expertise.
    Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing; it’s just that nifty titles and slogans all too often do not accurately reflect the realities of the day, and on occasion can actually get in the way of true humanitarian efforts.
    But at first glance that does not seem to be the case with a fledgling organization of volunteers from throughout the North Adams school district who have banded together with the aim of reducing child hunger in this community.
   HERO Meals: Feeding Families of North Adams has set a modest but laudable goal of discreetly sending home with qualifying students from low-income families a weekend meal package. Non-perishable food items would be provided during the school year “to children who often have little or no food available to them over weekends and holidays,” according to literature provided by the HERO Meals organization.
   After studying results of a similar program in Wells County, volunteer organizers chose the name for the North Adams effort after it was determined that kids took their role in helping feed their families very seriously, and actually took pride in carrying the often heavy packs of food by themselves.
    “We see them as heroes, and it was felt the ‘super hero’ comparison would be attractive to elementary school children,” according to the HERO Meals information sheet.
    The group will attempt to secure grants to carry out its mission, and will also rely on local individual and business partnerships. North Adams Community Schools have agreed to furnish a building where food can be stored and packaged.
    All in all it is a commendable program aimed at addressing a real and serious problem in Adams County, and its organizers are to be thanked and congratulated.
    The group, its ultimate success or failure not withstanding, also demonstrates that there, indeed, are  certain occasions where the private sector can more readily and easily address real problems than can any local, state or federal arm of government.
    Were the crisis of child hunger in Adams County to be addressed, for instance, by some level of government bureaucracy, such efforts surely would be accompanied by cries bemoaning government hand-outs, larger government and deficit-spending. Calls would go out for drug-testing for the parents of food recipients, groups of well-meaning politicians would hold countless meetings to address the subject, and mountains of red tape would keep children hungry for months, if not years.
    But with little motive other than to help the children of their “village” prosper, the HERO Meals group is off and running where government programs would surely stumble.
    To be certain, there are a host of other challenges that remain for Adams County — homelessness and the need for short-term emergency shelters chief among them.
    But hunger is all too real, and it resides in this county. Hopefully its stay will be shorter now, thanks to these local HEROES.

AC board right to question
    
    On a wholly different topic, members of the Adams Central school board are absolutely on target in continuing to seek some sort of assurance that the New Tech model of education implemented a few years ago at the school is on the right track.
    New school models, all touted as the best thing since sliced bread, routinely come and go. And while the New Tech approach seems at a glance to be a worthwhile endeavor, but how are board members to be sure? By asking questions and seeking benchmarks, that’s how.
    They are to be applauded for refusing to accept at face value a concept that — while perhaps popular with teachers and students alike — may or may not be in the best overall interest of the constituents they serve.

    The writer is the opinion page editor of the Decatur Daily Democrat.
  

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