“Step Up to the Challenge of Poverty in Montgomery County”
MLK’s “Beloved Community,” a vision of a completely integrated and just society…
How does Montgomery County measure up to that standard in 2011?
In many ways, very well. We have welcomed people from all over the world…
We work hard every day to be a just and civil place…
But on this day, we must recognize that we have fallen short….
The image of Montgomery County in Annapolis and elsewhere is one of general affluence. And by any standard we are a blessed and affluent community…
But hidden among this general affluence are people who are hurting, people who are poor...
20% of all households headed by a single mother live below the poverty line;
The numbers are not small: there are more students in MCPS eligible for free and reduced meals than there are students in the entire District of Columbia Public Schools system.
In addition to the traditional poor, the collapse of the international economic system has pushed many previously comfortable families into poverty…
And we know that to be poor among the affluent is a special burden…
We know that a community with an increasing gap between rich and poor is not a healthy community…
So on this day, we must rededicate our County to Dr. King’s dream…
We have not been ignoring this challenge. Two years ago, recognizing that the County government does not have all the answers, I called on our faith community and our nonprofit partners to help us find creative ways to respond to the impact of the international recession on our neighbors most in need.
Through our Neighborhood Opportunity Network, we knocked on 10,000 doors.
We learned three things:
- the need is far greater than we thought;
- the vast majority of those in need don’t need long term government support but rather they need a network of support to help them take the step up to a sustainable future;
- many among us are willing to help.
And that third lesson is the key to stepping up to the challenge of poverty here in Montgomery County.
Today and for the remaining days of my service as your County Executive, I am going to call on every single one of us to step up to this challenge. What will you do? Where will you serve? How will you help?
If ten percent of our neighbors are in poverty, that means there should be a lot of us available to lend a helping hand…
We need business and community leaders to face this challenge. It is in the self-interest of every single one of us to step up to this challenge.
What will you do? Where will you serve? How will you help?
I urge each one of you to go to our County website and click on volunteer and join our Pledge 25 campaign. 2011 is the 25th anniversary of our nationally acclaimed Community Service Day. To help us celebrate this silver anniversary and to help us step up to the challenge of the poverty among us, I am asking each one of you to join the Pledge 25 campaign. Step up to the challenge of poverty by pledging that you will volunteer 25 hours between today and Community Service Day on October 22, 2011. 250 hours if you can, but pledge at least 25 hours.
What could you do?
What are your skills? What is your passion? How much time do you have?
You could collect food for the Manna Food Center.
You could mentor a child at the National Center for Children and Families.
You could sort clothes at the Interfaith Works Clothing Center.
You could prepare a meal for the Coalition for the Homeless.
You could help IMPACT Silver Spring build neighborhood support networks.
You could donate furniture to A Wider Circle.
You could make a contribution to the Neighbors in Need Fund of the Community Foundation for Montgomery County.
There’s lots you can do.
I will in the coming weeks be working with our Council President Valerie Ervin and our Board of Education President Christopher Barclay to convene a group of business and community leaders to lead this “Step Up to the Challenge of Poverty” initiative. This won’t be a study group, this will be an action group. This group will lead a community wide effort to tap the time, talent, and treasure of our community to step up to the challenge of poverty and help us realize Dr. King’s dream of a beloved community.
Honor Dr. King. Join me. Pledge 25. Step it up, Montgomery! What will you do? Where will you serve? How will you help?