Saturday, March 12, 2011

Important Things

A combination of giving up nonessential expenses for Lent and then spending a good part of the week working on a variety of projects for nonprofit organizations in my community has really got my dander up.  This is what I posted on Facebook a few minutes ago:  
Our community is looking forward to having an Olive Garden Restaurant, which in 2004, had $4.1 million in annual sales per restaurant, and yet cannot fund a domestic violence shelter. Our local shelter closed due to lack of financial support. Shame on us.
About a year ago, our domestic violence (and sexual assault) shelter closed its doors for good due to lack of funding.  The shelter had hung in there for a few months prior, thanks to the dedicated employees who kept the facility running despite not receiving a paycheck for several months.  But it was just not possible to run the shelter without income.  The shelter had received some grants, but it was not enough to keep the program going.  

Our community is one of mainly blue collar workers and we have a very high unemployment rate due to the closing of our largest businesses.  It is also an area where there is a high incidence of the "boys will be boys" mentality so many turn a blind eye to the problem of domestic violence.  Thus, ours is a community with a desperate need for some type of sanctuary for victims of violence (which are typically women and children).  

So I hope you can understand my outrage and anger over the upcoming and much anticipated opening of another chain restaurant.  Our community is not lacking an Italian restaurant.  In fact, we have at least three very good, locally owned Italian restaurants.  Money is tight here and yet the chain restaurants are flourishing.  

In addition, our city and outlying areas have the highest overweight and obesity incidence in the state.  The LAST thing we need is a restaurant where a typical dinner entrĂ©e has 800 or more calories.  The Pork Milanese has 1510 calories, with 87 grams of fat.  And this is before adding a salad, a beverage, and a dessert.  Just the Pork Milanese has more calories than many people should eat in an entire day.  So having another restaurant, especially one with high calorie, high fat fare, is really the last thing we need.  

Some may argue that a new restaurant creates jobs.  Well, yes, but most of the money earned by the restaurant will leave the community.  But having a shelter will create jobs in the community, as well.  It will employ administrators, clerical staff, counselors, and a variety of caregivers, plus it will make for a healthier community all around.  

Not spending any money on nonessentials during the Lenten season really makes me aware of how much money is spent on frivolous items while vital programs are being cut.  Because going out to eat is not essential and yet having a safe haven for the most vulnerable is, I find my blood boiling.  If a community cannot afford to support local programs, I feel that they definitely cannot afford to eat at the Olive Garden (or any other restaurant).  Go home and make a nice healthy plate of beans and rice, served with a side of steamed broccoli.  And if you had been inclined to eat out (and actually could afford it), donate the extra money to a worthy cause instead.


Shona~ LALA dex press said...

These are such important things + every community needs more people like you. I, unfortunately, am once again on shut-down mode. This is happening more and more as a defense mechanism because if I look at more images of the horrors of the world (globally and locally) I will cry for days. I guess it's having to deal with a lot of that every day at my work, the sorrows or people's lives. In addition, transcribing forensic evaluations for court cases. People do such horrible things to each other.

I have decided that my contribution to my community, as the receptionist at our local mental health center, and the first person people see when they come into the office, is to try and be as compassionate as I can as people seek comfort and help when they walk in, and so often they are frightened. I want my demeanor to say "you are safe, you have come to the right place."

Cherie said...

Shona,in working at a mental health center, and in your court work, you are definitely contributing to your community (and to the world). You are providing much needed services. I has got to be hard to witness so much pain and suffering

It is easy to get overwhelmed by all that is going on in the world. I know I do. I suppose we have to chose what we CAN do and do it. We can't all do the same type of work, but I get frustrated by people who are completely caught up in their own pleasure and don't care that others are suffering.

Lisa Sharp said...

I understand and agree! Most of the time we eat out (which is rare) we eat at locally owned places. We get to know the staff which is great because I have a life threatening allergy and since they know me I know they will remember and take good care of me. You don't get that with chains.

Same thing with groceries, we shop locally owned stores and today I saw they didn't seem to be carrying my shampoo anymore so I FBed the owner (yes I'm facebook friends with the owner haha) and asked her about it and she e-mailed me right back. They have ordered things for me. They have held food for us that they get limited amounts of, they gave us free candies today, and all kinds of nice things like that. You can never get that with chains.

Deanna said... are so right. But I think people would prefer to not to think about people in need. I recently was asked to join the board of a local homeless services group. I knew we had a (well-hidden) problem with homelessness in our community but as I sat there at my first meeting and heard the statistics, I was stunned.

Cherie said...

Lisa, good for you! We don't eat out very often and it's usually at locally owned restaurants. I wish we had a good local grocery or health food store but we don't. I do try to shop at a small health food chain (the closest one is about an hour away) rather than frequenting Whole Foods.

I think people just need to be educated about how the way they spend their money is actually hurting their community. I find I don't always have the patience to do it, though, as it seems so obvious to me.

Cherie said...

Deanna, I think because our society is an individualistic society rather than a collectivist society, we have a hard time putting the needs of others ahead of our own wants. It seems there are many generous people out there when a crisis hits but then revert back to the usual way of doing things afterwards.

It is shocking to learn about homelessness. I was told recently that there are about 8,000 homeless people living in the Orlando, Florida area. Orlando, home to far-too-many overpriced theme parks. Glad you're getting involved with this crisis in your community.