The Way We See It

No vacation for the needy


Summer is synonymous with being carefree. It’s a time when sunrays soothe away worries and people take the time to pack up and head for the shore.

But the breezy feeling of lightheartedness is one that settles on the surface. We sometimes forget during the sandy, sunny months that those things that plague the less fortunate during the fall, winter and spring still cling to them in the summer.

The summer is a dreaded time for charitable organizations, and June, July and August are notorious for declines in donations. Food banks, blood banks and other organizations that collect goods for the needy all record slumps in their donations during the summer.

The Rhode Island Community Food Bank said they organize summertime drives specifically to avoid a decreased supply of food come August, when needy school children (between meals from camps and meals from school) are at the most critical point of their year.

According to the Red Cross website, nationwide blood donations were 50,000 units less than projected in June. The result? They now have half the blood products that they did this time last year. Seemingly trivial things like the early start of warm weather and the mid-week celebration of the Fourth of July are what the Red Cross sites as possible reasons for the decrease in donations. Extended vacations contribute to a lack of host sites and donors, they say.

But their website also notes that patients can’t take a vacation from needing blood products; that’s something the majority isn’t mindful of during the warm months.

Locally, the picture is brighter. The Rhode Island Blood Center has conducted a number of blood donation campaigns during the summer, resulting in “one of the best Julys we ever had,” said spokesman Frank Prosnitz. “We don’t have an option,” Prosnitz said. “We need 280 pints a day.”

In the winter, we worry about the homeless as the snow falls and the thermometer drops. During Thanksgiving we hope those less fortunate were able to visit a food pantry or soup kitchen for their meal. If we see school children rushing around outside in the cold, we think to donate hand-me-down jackets and scarves. Colder months are a time when everyone is mindful of their own blessings and others’ less fortunate circumstances.

But just because it may not be in the forefront of our minds this season does not mean that there isn’t still a huge need. Andrew Schiff, the CEO of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, said the need is actually the greatest it has ever been.

Though the temperature has yet to drop, the unemployment rate is still high (and it’s a good barometer for the amount of need in the state.) Just because the summer sun has bleached away thoughts of hunger and homelessness doesn’t mean those things don’t still exist. So before you head out on that final summer trip, stop by your local food pantry, blood bank or shelter and make a donation. It will be a summer activity that warms you in a way sunbathing could never hope to.


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Thank you for this thoughtful and timely piece. It's heartening to know that the reporters and editors at the Warwick Beacon understand the realities faced year-round by those in need. Food is a daily need for all of us, every month of the year.

Thursday, August 23, 2012