by Rita Hooper
In June, I will be representing Presbyterian Women of the Synod of the Northeast on a mission trip to Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina, a section of the country commonly referred to as Appalachia.
There will be about 25 women from all over the country taking part in this trip. We will be attending lectures and workshops, meeting with local historians and Appalachian women to better understand the history and culture of the region.
We will tour and fellowship with local organizations serving women, children and families. We will learn about the evolution and existing ministry of the Presbyterian Church and the challenges faced by women, children and families living in the area.
Appalachia is an area covering more than 200,000 square miles that follow the spine of the Appalachian Mountains from Pennsylvania to Mississippi; it includes all of West Virginia and parts of 11 other states. Forty-two percent of the region’s population is classified as rural as compared with 20 percent of the national population.
In 1965, one in three Appalachians lived in poverty and 223 counties were considered economically disadvantaged. By 2008 the poverty rate had dropped to 18 percent and in 2013, the number of counties considered economically disadvantaged has been cut to 98.
Appalachia was one of the areas impacted by the War on Poverty begun back in the ‘60’s that bought us among other programs, Head Start, Vista, Job Corps, Legal Services and the office of Economic Opportunity, which administered the program. This was sometimes referred to as Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. Having been a young adult at this time, I can tell you it was exciting.
For a country in trauma following the assassination of the President, his brother and Martin Luther King, this was a program that a large part of this country could get behind and that many of us benefitted from. It was a bright spot in a war weary world.
Of course the programs had their critics and fell victim to politics. Nixon came in and dismantled many of the programs or transferred them to other agencies shutting down the office of Economic Opportunity. Whether it was a good or bad, many folks benefitted from the programs as they were lifted out of poverty, received educations and finally the needs of the disadvantaged were being lifted up.
This was an area of the country whose economy was dependent on mining, forestry, agriculture, chemical and heavy industry. It has become more diversified in recent years but many of the urban Appalachians still live in polluted, low-income industrial areas where they are exposed to toxic substances.
At this point in time, one in five Appalachian children lives in poverty; at least 40,000 children lack health insurance. Nearly 1/3 of the third graders have not been to a dentist in the past year or have ever had a dental exam. Infant mortality in some counties is twice the national average. Many lack the very basics of necessities like indoor plumbing and running water. This is not in a third world country but in the United States.
This area had the usual influx of immigrants, Poles, Irish, English, Scotch and Africans, among others. The Native Americans were displaced during the Trail of Tears. In spite of all the “downers,” it is an area rich in scenery, culture, crafts, music and story telling. I am excited about all there is for me to see, learn and do. I look forward to this trip.
When I return, I have committed to spend the next two years speaking about the area and advocating for their needs throughout the Northeast.
There will be a mission fair and spaghetti dinner at the First United Church (33 S. Third St., Fulton, April 27 from 4 to 8 p.m.; dinner from 5:30 until sold out.
Dr. Joan Hillsman will be bringing us worship through music with an emphasis on Appalachian music. That alone will make it something you won’t want to miss. I do hope many of my friends and faithful readers from Hannibal and the surrounding area will circle the date and come and offer their support.
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On another subject, I’ve been giving considerable thought, as I think some of my readers have, about how we get government moving in Washington. These folks were elected to work — and they did — they shortened their own working schedule, the number of days they spend in Washington. But other than that much of Washington has been at a standstill. We have workshops on bullying locally, claim it’s a national issue and yet at every level of government, I see people in both parties using bullying tactics.
We elected these folks to get a job done, to do their own research (not listen to those infamous lobbyists and claim what they say as fact,) to sit down and work with each other, to invoke the fine art of compromise — remember when mom had one of her children cut the cake and the other children had first choice of the pieces?
So who do we have in Hannibal that we could get behind and send to Washington? Who is it that would talk to power and tell them, they just may be too big for their britches and take them down a peg or two.
Who is it that could sit them down at a table and get the job done for us? And make them shake hands afterwards!
I ask my readers, if they would in their “pondering time’’ ponder this question and send me the names of people you think could do the job and why. It might just take a team! I have already decided who my nominee would be but I’d be interested in hearing yours.
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The menu this week at the Senior Dining Center is:
April 15: Open-faced hot turkey sandwich, mashed potatoes, vegetable blend, and fruit cup.
April 17: Ham, boiled potatoes, carrots and cabbage, and applesauce.
April 19: Chicken Parmesan over pasta, vegetable blend, and cookie.
This week their program will include Wii bowling and other games Monday, Bingo on Wednesday, and Music with the Pritchards Friday. The Center opens at 10 and lunch is served at noon. Give Rosemary a call at 564-5471 to make your reservation. The center is located in the Library Building on Oswego Street.
The Hannibal Boy Scouts are selling “Camp Cards” as a fundraiser. The card sells for $5, but is worth more than this amount in value at local businesses. One half of the selling prices goes to the local Scout unit and is great way for Scouts to earn their way to camp. For more information, call Mr. Prosser at 564-5630.
Cabin 3 invites you to the S.O.S. FEST “Big Meeting” Tuesday, April 16 at 6 p.m. at God’s Vision Christian Church, 326 Church St, Hannibal. This will be the 3rd year of the S.O.S. FEST. It is a three-day Christian music festival held at the Hannibal Firemen’s Field July 19-21.
The Hannibal Methodist Church is holding prayer meetings at the home of Jack Lenhard on Pine View Lane at 7 p.m. Tuesday evenings and at 1 p.m. Thursdays in the church dining room, Route 3
Wednesday and Thursday, April 17 and 18 at 7 p.m., the Hannibal High School’s Drama Club, Purple Gallery, will present the comedy, “30 Reasons Not To Be In A Play,” by Alan Haehnel, in the Hannibal High School Lockwood Auditorium.
The Sterling Valley Community Church will be having its annual Men’s and Boy’s Dinner Friday, April 19 at 6 p.m. The menu will be Italian with homemade pies for dessert. The program will be presented by The Friends of Fort Ontario. Please call Judy at 564-5386 with your reservations.
The Friends of the Hannibal Free Library will be holding its Spring Book and Bake Sale Saturday, April 20 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday, April 21 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will take place in the Hannibal Community Center, next to the library.