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A year later, needs still here

Our Opinion

This time last year, we called upon Portland-area residents to pause and express gratitude for what they have by celebrating the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday with friends and family. But we also urged our readers to recognize that the needs of the less fortunate were exploding and that people and businesses should take action to slow this rising tide of community need.

In November 2008, we suspect that many of us had grand hopes for improvement. At the time, a spirit of renewed optimism had captured the nation as President-elect Barack Obama told Americans 'I need your help' and asked what each of us could do for our country.

A year later, that challenge bears repeating, but in this case, we should ask what can each of us can do for our community.

In the past 12 months, the severity of the recession has directly affected all of us. While there are clear indications that the recession is ending, the recovery will be painfully slow, and in Oregon will likely not be achieved well into 2011.

People have been hit hard

The personal suffering from the recession has been profound.

The state's unemployment rate in October 2008 was 7.2 percent. Today, it is 11.3 percent - meaning that 75,000 more people are out of work now than a year ago. Our unemployment rate is the nation's sixth highest. But these statistics don't express the impact that most Oregonians have accepted: reduced wages, furlough days from work without pay and reduced working hours and benefits.

Yet, the working poor may be the hardest hit. Economists say this includes part-time, female and young workers.

Meanwhile, hunger has grown dramatically. Earlier this decade, the Oregon Food Bank reported that the people in 3.9 percent of the state's households went hungry because they did not have enough money for food. By last December, the rate of hunger in the state had almost doubled to 6.6 percent. It's likely worse this November as hunger mirrors unemployment.

All of this requires change.

In this past year, the Obama Administration and state and local leaders have done many things to stimulate the economy and aid those in need. Local nonprofits and businesses have stepped up, as well. (We are pleased to announce, as just one example, that the Portland Tribune and Community Newspapers will donate $47,633.84 to the Oregon Food Bank as part of our recent Community Partners Program that engaged businesses and advertisers throughout the region.)

We think more focus and more effort is required. And it is clear that with needs of such immensity, no single individual, business group, social service agency or government body can solve these growing problems alone.

Create jobs; give generously

The solution first requires federal, state and local focus on working with the private sector to sustain existing jobs, and secondly, to assist in the creation of new family-wage jobs. No other priority is as great.

Meanwhile, it will take continued charitable giving by each of us - even if in reduced amounts from what was possible before.

Charity cannot be a seasonal practice during times such as these. Even as our economy slowly recovers, the requirement to assist those less fortunate remains. And while not ignoring national or international causes, look first to help those in need who are close to home.

If you don't know how, call us at 503-684-0360, ore-mail us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . We will put you in touch with agencies, people and non-profit organizations in your community that are making a difference.

Meanwhile, to address the specific need of hunger, give generously to the Oregon Food Bank by visiting online at www.oregonfoodbank.org, or calling 503-282-0555.