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Give a little more time and money to help the needy

 | Published on 9/3/2010

It's not a healthy equation.

In the Tri-Cities, the cost of living is relatively low and job growth is steady, yet demand for social services is on the rise.

It doesn't make sense.

But that's the reality, according to Tri-City social service professionals.

The directors of the Tri-Cities Food Bank, Grace Clinic and United Way recently spoke to members of the Columbia Basin Badger Club and said the number of people needing their services is climbing, even with the Tri-Cities' stable economy.

It's an alarming trend. What would happen to these struggling folks if the Tri-Cities weren't in such good economic shape?

Their best hope is for the rest of us to start giving a little more of ourselves. Offering time or money or both can make a huge difference to the needy.

John Neill, executive director of the Tri-Cities Food Bank, said the amount of food distributed by the food bank increased by 15 percent from 2008-09, and likely will increase another 5 percent to 10 percent for 2010.

But the number of food bank volunteers has stayed flat. The organization needs more people to help out, he said.

Grace Clinic is in a similar situation. Board President Mark Brault said the demand for the clinic's services nearly doubled among working-age adults because employers are unable to provide health insurance or they've cut employees' hours so they no longer qualify for benefits.

The free clinic sees about 23,000 patients a year, all uninsured and with incomes below 200 percent of poverty level, which is $44,100 for a family of four, according to 2010 federal poverty guidelines.

That's a lot of people needing help.

Brault said more volunteer physicians are desperately needed to cover the growing demand.

So if anyone can help out, don't hesitate.

The Tri-Cities was just listed among the top 10 places nationwide to raise a family, according to, part of a Washington, D.C.-based publisher of business forecasts and personal finance advice.

That is a huge honor, and we think the Tri-Cities deserves it.

But it's ironic the Tri-Cities can be one of the best places to live and at the same time have a growing demand for social services.

Beverly Weber, president and CEO of United Way of Benton and Franklin Counties, said a regional plan to tackle poverty in the Tri-Cities is being developed.

But it can't work without the community's support.

So if you've got extra cash, share it. If you've got extra time, spare it.

The cost of living in the Tri-Cities may be low and job growth may be consistent, but we're still leaving some people behind.

Let's help them catch up.

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