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What it means to have a seat at the table.

 

            Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and we have plenty to be thankful for here at Thompson. This has been a banner year for us, serving further and wider than ever before. When my family and I sit down at the table for dinner at our home in Waxhaw, I will have plenty to be thankful for myself. 

            Our work at Thompson affords us the opportunity to look into the lives of others who have seen more hardships, and challenges than many of us. It can open our eyes to a world outside of our own, a world that I believe is hidden behind the explosive development across Charlotte.

            The last census of Mecklenburg County showed a population of approximately 1,076,837 people. But a census isn’t a perfect science, and in the case of social services in our county, a faulty estimation can have serious consequences.

            It is estimated that 73,000 children ages 0-5 live in hard-to-count census tracts. If these children go untracked, the state possibly stands to lose more than $5 billion in federal investments that support children’s healthy development. These investments come in the form of child care subsidies, Head Start, nutrition support, and health care—all benefits that would serve the areas most vulnerable children (Early NC Childhood Foundation).

            This Thanksgiving, while we tuck into our turkey, we cannot forget the 12% of Mecklenburg County who are living in poverty. Of that 12%, 699,754 of them are living 500% below the poverty level. At least 44% of children ages 0-5 are living in a household earning below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level.

            To paint a picture, the Federal Poverty Level for a family of three is defined as a total annual income of $18,552 and so 44% of these children are living below $37,104 (200% of the FPL). Our community, our neighbors, are suffering.

            These are more than statistics to us at Thompson, they’re pieces to the puzzle. Did you know there is a significant association between poverty and mental illness in the US? Research done by the McSilver Institute for Poverty and Policy Research has shown that the relationship is bidirectional, meaning poverty may exacerbate mental illness and mental illness may lead to poverty.

            The health, physical and mental, of the entire family unit, is affected by poverty. It’s a bitter cycle. One study based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics found that the odds of a household experiencing food insecurity increased by 50 to 80 percent if a mother had moderate to severe depression.

            Still, studies show that families living in poverty struggle to connect with mental health services they can access.

            This Thanksgiving, it is imperative to be grateful. Be grateful for what we have been given—others have not been as fortunate. Be grateful for what we have worked for—some are unable to work for themselves. And finally, be grateful for the ways we are capable of helping and giving to others—some are sitting at their tables hoping that next year they will be able to return the favor.

Wishing a happy and blessed holiday to you all.

Will Jones.

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