With the economy still as cold as the weather in many areas, Bay Village’s Community Services department continues to keep busy trying to aid those in need of a little help during the holiday season.
Director Debbie Bock said the need remains high for the department’s assistance in the community.
“It’s been really rough on a lot of people in the community during the last couple of years,” she said. “We get reactions from some people like ‘There are people in Bay Village who need help?’ The economy has hit as hard here as it has in other places.”
Figures provided by the Cleveland Foodbank showed that food distribution in Bay Village and other Westshore suburbs increased by 10 percent from 57,640 pounds to 63,367 pounds in 2010. Meal distribution also jumped 10 percent from 44,339 meals to 48,744.
Food stamp enrollment figures jumped even higher. Foodbank figures for that showed a 28 percent increase in the Westshore, going from 4,180 people in 2009 to 5,336 in 2010.
Bock wasn’t surprised by the Foodbank statistics.
“Unfortunately, they seem about right,” she said. “The problems really are staying around unfortunately.”
She noted the possible stoppage of federal unemployment benefits for some people would also have an impact in Bay Village.
“There are at least two families I know of that would have an immediate impact on,” she said.
Unemployment hits all segments of society, she said.
“It hit’s professionals just as hard,” she said. “When National City was converted to PNC for example, we had people in the city who were affected by that. In many cases, people are two-income families now. When one of those incomes goes away, it usually has a pretty tough impact on the family and its finances.”
Bock said the terrible economy of recent years has impacted how people save.
“Most people don’t have that nine-month saving cushion they used to tell you to have in case something happens,” she said. “Now, when people lose a job, it only takes a paycheck or two for them to really start straining with their finances.”
Bock said her department tries to help in different ways.
“We have food and other assistance programs where we get them short-term assistance,” she said. “Other times, we just try to connect them with someone or some other group that can assist them.”
In one instance, Bock said a 10-year-old Bay Village girl, Madison Wall, asked birthday party guests to brings gifts and items for another 10-year-old girl to provide help for her family.
Chanda Wall, Madison’s mother, said the family is very proud of Madison’s work.
“It’s really great what she and all her friends did,” Wall said. “She got 33 friends to bring something. Other people who couldn’t come to the party sent something anyway.”
Madison has always had a big heart for other people, but this was her first effort on this scale, Chanda said.
“She would contribute to school and classroom projects when they would raise money or take a can of food, but this is pretty big,” Wall said. “She sees stories in the news about people needing help and it’s touched her.”
Chanda said adults also are taking notice.
“I had one mother who wondered if we had people like this in Bay Village too,” Wall said. “She and the others all helped out in bringing these items in.”
During her interview with West Life, Bock also met briefly with a Bay Village man who has provided anonymous assistance to many others for several years.
“He’s done it several times,” Bock said. “He knows he’s been hit hard by the economy, so he figures some people have been hit even harder.”
In this instance, the man agreed to aid one Bay High School student and his family.
Bock, a former social worker, admits the hardship is tough to see sometimes, even with her professional experience and training.
“We know the need is still there,’ she said. “That’s why try we try to meet with as many people as we can. Plus, we’re always looking for new ways to provide assistance to provide assistance to people.”