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From Left Field

April 25, 2011

    The signs are everywhere. Adams County's unemployment rate was 8.2 percent  in March, the lowest it's been in nearly three years. The highest jobless rate in Indiana was 12.5 percent in Fayette County; 12.5 was one of the lowest rates not all that long ago.
    Local businesses are doing a little better. Every now and then a new business opens. State revenues exceeded expectations the last time around. And yet...
    And yet we know a lot of people are still suffering, no matter what some politicians seem to think. So, thankfully, efforts on the local level continue unabated as people here take care of their own.
    First United Methodist Church is well into its second year of providing a free weekly meal to anyone who comes forward, and some church volunteers recently conducted a successful food drive throughout the community. The food bank at St. Mary's Catholic Church continues to be busy, as does Operation Help's food bank,  and the recent effort of a large group of volunteers to prepare food at Wyneken school for the Kids Against Hunger program was again a huge success.
    So while the present is better and the future looks a little brighter, the need hasn't gone away.
    "We're still averaging about 120 (meals) a night," says Al Noble, who heads First Church's program to offer free meals each Wednesday night, an effort that started well over a year ago.
    "It's amazing, really. We thought it would slack off, but it really hasn't. There's still a need out there," Noble said. "It's been as low as around 100 and as high as 140; just a few weeks ago we had 140 or so. You just never know week to week."
    Sometimes, as a program operated by volunteers stretches out over a long period of time, the support slowly drifts away. But that hasn't been the case at the Methodist church at Fifth and Monroe streets.
    "Our volunteers have been real good (staying with the weekly effort)," Noble said. "St. Mark's (Methodist Church) helps out, the Church of God; sometimes St. Mary's helps. So it's been real good, actually."    

A ton of food...literally
    Meanwhile, another First Church effort, a "Faith In Action" food drive, was a success.
    Young people of the church asked people in numerous city neighborhoods to place a bag containing canned or boxed food on their doorknobs by 1 p.m. on Sunday, April 10. Volunteers then collected the bags and also walked door-to-door asking for food donations from other homes.
    The donated food will wind up in local food banks.
    "We think we collected a ton of food ... literally," said Charlie Brune, who headed up the effort. "We had it weighed and it's probably going to be close to a ton."
     According to Brune, "Everyone was very generous. A lot of people had things out for us. We were happy to see that. It was great."
    Were there enough volunteers for the collection of some three hours?
    "There were probably 20 to 22 of us, something like that," Brune replied. "You can always use more, of course, but that went really well, too."

The biggest of all
    The most massive onetime effort of the many going on around us occurred last Saturday at Wyneken School where over 220 people turned 8,000 pounds of dry ingredients into some 53,000 individual meals. In less than five hours!
    It was the second time local and area Lutherans have taken on the Kids Against Hunger challenge and the results are, in a word, staggering.
    Some $12,500 was donated to support the project and in the end, nearly 55 percent of the meals — roughly 29,000 of them — will go to Adams County food banks. Some will go to the St. Joe Hessen Cassel food bank and the Wells County Food Pantry, and the remainder to the poor country of Sierre Leone.
    Zion Friedheim Church sponsors the event and, according to a spokesman, already is committed to a repeat a year or more down the road.

You, me and not GE
    Here's hoping everyone who filed a tax return Monday — or even the week before — thought about our onetime Decatur employer, General Electric. For while you were doing your patriotic duty, GE put its hand over its corporate heart, sang "American the Beautiful," praised God and country and ... paid no income taxes.
    In fact, GE is said to be due a refund ...as usual.
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