Let’s avoid the P-word today.
Just for some clarity, we’ll offer its dictionary definition: “The state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor.” Need another hint? The U.S. Census Bureau uses specific numbers to determine which people are experiencing that condition. A family of four with an annual household income of $22,000 or less qualifies for that status. In Terre Haute, 12,094 children live in homes with “little or no money, goods, or means of support,” according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for 2008 through 2010. In Indiana, only Gary and Elkhart have higher percentages of kids under 18 immersed in that situation.
But repetition of stats, percentages, phrases like “highest in the state,” and the P-word gradually numb the senses. In fact, after that second paragraph, I’m grateful for all who’ve hung with us up to this sentence.
Images tell stories better than numerals and economic terminology. The flesh-and-blood realities exist inside the stats and jargon, and I’ve encountered a few real-life reminders during the past week … during conversations with folks staying at the Light House Mission … while listening to Danny Tanoos, the Vigo County schools superintendent, explain how free lunches are often the last full meal of the day for many youngsters … through a chat with the Rev. Honnalora Hubbard, chairperson of the Salvation Army’s 2011 Christmas Campaign.
Not surprisingly, Hubbard emphasized the need for a heartfelt response by the community this year. The numbers — yes, statistics — back up her call. Last year, the Salvation Army served 1,650 families through various holiday programs, such as delivery of food baskets, toy and clothing shopping trips for kids and teens, and “adopt-a-family” provisions of gifts and day-to-day necessities.
This year, the Salvation Army expects 1,800 families to sign up for help.
Each family, each person has a story. Hubbard understands. She has one, too.
Today, Hubbard is a 41-year-old wife and mom who works as executive director of Terre Haute Ministries, an association of local congregations. She smiles as she talks about her family — her husband of 21 years, Billy, and their son, Anthony, now serving in the U.S. military in Afghanistan.
The circumstances of Hubbard’s childhood are a stark contrast to her life today. Nine people shared a small, three-bedroom house west of the Wabash. Things got tougher after her dad died when Honnalora was just 7. “I grew up in a troubled, poor, abusive home,” she explained in an impressively composed voice. When friends asked why young Honnalora was skipping meals, she’d tell them, “I’m on a diet.” Hers was a “very dysfunctional family.”
Yet, out of that “horrible childhood,” she said, “The Lord has done amazing healing in my life.”
Thus, Hubbard leans on some good memories from her seven brief years with her dad, especially from her last Christmas with him.
He worked at the A&P Supermarket in Terre Haute. Each year, her dad asked the store to donate some of its bulk candy on Christmas Eve, and he would deliver it to neighbors, door-to-door, dressed as Santa Claus. Meanwhile, he’d also spend several days making batches of chocolate fudge from his mother’s recipe, and take that treat to friends along his Christmas Eve route as Santa.
The last time Hubbard’s father played Santa, he made a stop at his own family’s home. She was 6. “I saw his eyes, and I realized it was my dad,” she recalled.
Later, she asked him why he would pretend to be Santa. “Because I want to help people,” he answered, adding, “If I could, I would do more.” He died the following year.
This fall, when local Salvation Army officials approached Hubbard about serving as the Christmas Campaign chairperson, “That story came flooding back and I realized this was my chance to do ‘the more.’” Her wish is to see an extraordinary effort by a community coping with stubbornly high unemployment and wage rates well below the state average. The reaction by Hauteans in times of past hardships has been miraculous, she said. The upcoming holiday season could inspire another miracle through making a good, lasting memory for those who’ve lost jobs, homes, loved ones or hope.
The Christmas spirit. It goes beyond money. It’s giving with care, and without judgment. It occurs every year around this time.
“There’s all this amazing stuff that happens in this community at Christmastime, where needs are met, generosity happens, families are strengthened,” Hubbard said, “and nobody realizes it unless somebody points it out.”
That’s “the more” her dad mentioned. That’s the chance for healing. That’s a glimmer of light in the midst of, yes, poverty.
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or email@example.com.
Let’s avoid the P-word today.
- Local & Bistate
Annual St. Ben’s community festival kicks off
The St. Ben's Community Festival kicked off Friday night and continues from 5 p.m. until midnight today.
Adding to the mix
The mix of local food choices will get a fresh stir in the near future, as a café opens a second location, a pizza place moves downtown and a national chain sprouts in two more spots.
Shift from jets to intelligence
Loud, impressive fighter jets once zoomed regularly across the sky in Terre Haute, their roars drowning out the sounds of televisions and telephones all around the area.
Candidates’ views clash over more education testing, vouchers
Indiana needs to change direction to improve education, said Democrat Jim Mann, who will face incumbent Rep. Robert Heaton, R-Terre Haute, in a rematch race for Indiana House District 46.
Fraudulent checks with an extra ‘t’
A Terre Haute woman who received a large check in the mail this week wants to warn others that though the check looks legitimate, it is a scam.
Truck, van collide, stopping some U.S. 41 lanes for an hour
Northbound traffic on U.S. 41 south of Terre Haute was blocked for about one hour Friday because of a two vehicle crash.
Indianapolis closing nightlife street on weekends
Indianapolis officials will close the main street through a nightlife district to motor vehicles on Friday and Saturday nights to reduce violence there.
Man revives 3-year-old who was face down in pool
Authorities in central Indiana say a man revived his 3-year-old son after spotting the boy face down in an apartment complex pool.
Vigo County Jail Log: July 11, 2014
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Thursday and Friday, based on jail records.
New exhibits set to open at Red Skelton museum
VINCENNES (AP) — Events are being planned for the opening of new exhibits at the museum celebrating the career of the late comedian Red Skelton in his southwestern Indiana hometown.
10 Things to Know for Friday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:
Mayor: City will not file bankruptcy
The Terre Haute City Council took well more than an hour to ask questions and discuss the health of the city’s finances with top city officials in a special meeting Thursday night. A few councilmen expressed grave concern about the financial picture, while Mayor Duke Bennett said things were improving.
State official threatens prosecution of city leaders who talk about audit
A state official has threatened to pursue the prosecution of city officials if they violate a confidentiality agreement signed last month.
ISU, 181st Intelligence Wing show off capabilities at expo
Communication and getting unmanned eyes in the sky can be vital parts of responding to a natural or man-made disaster.
Feds relent: Military to restore equipment program for fire departments
An agreement has been reached to keep surplus military equipment rolling into rural fire department bays in Indiana and 47 other states.
UW kicks off pilot campaign
Dottie King remembers the day she saw a young man leaving St. Ann’s Dental Clinic after having 17 teeth pulled. He had not received sufficient dental care before that day so his need was dramatic. That was unlike King, who had visited the dentist regularly since childhood, but still found getting a tooth filled not on her list of fun things to do. “I thought to myself, ‘I never have thought about the blessing of dental care,’” King recalled, sharing that story on Thursday morning with other volunteers for the United Way of the Wabash Valley.
Indiana’s director of homeland security sees unmanned systems’ potential
Integrating unmanned flight systems into use for domestic surveillance can provide first responders with key information in responding to fires, earthquakes and man-made disasters, said John Hill, director of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.
Stunt performer scheduled to be at Wigwam
A celebrity stunt man named Jim “Crash” Moreau is scheduled to perform at Terre Haute’s Wigwam Skate and Event Center on Saturday.
Rain barrels offered for sale
The Vigo County Soil and Water Conservation District is taking orders for 55-gallon rain barrels.
Tips lead to meth lab bust
Two people were arrested after police busted a clandestine methamphetamine lab Thursday in the 2200 block of Fourth Avenue in Terre Haute.
Police bust meth lab in Terre Haute
Police busted a clandestine methamphetamine lab today in the 2200 block of Fourth Avenue in Terre Haute.
UPDATE: Ethics panel approves $5K fine against Bennett
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana’s State Ethics Commission has approved a $5,000 fine against former state schools Superintendent Tony Bennett for using state resources in his 2012 campaign.
Vigo County Jail Log: July 10, 2014
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Wednesday and Thursday, based on jail records.
Group: 5,000 same-sex marriages in Illinois
A survey indicates thousands of same-sex couples are marrying in Illinois.
Study: Hunting restores forests in state parks
A study by a Purdue University research team has found that regulated deer hunts in Indiana state parks have helped restore forests damaged by too many white-tailed deer.
Historic Ohio Boulevard house inspired by 1948 Cary Grant movie
Spurred in 1948 by a newly released movie staring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy, coupled with a growing post-World War II housing market, General Electric partnered with Hollywood’s RKO Studios to build “dream homes” throughout the country.
A panel of public and private officials is calling for $10 billion in projects to upgrade Indiana’s aging roads and bridges, but its members concede there’s no money to pay for it all.
MARK BENNETT: Making road work a barrel of fun for drivers
We’re lucky orange barrels can’t talk.
City Council to take up city finances tonight
The Terre Haute City Council will have a chance in a special meeting tonight to delve deeply into the city’s financial health. However, council members are being asked to avoid raising the most controversial subject of recent weeks: The city’s use of Redevelopment Commission tax increment finance (TIF) money.
Bennett accepts $5,000 fine in ethics settlement
Former Indiana Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett has agreed to pay $5,000 as part of a settlement with Indiana’s ethics watchdog in which he admits to using state resources for campaign work but is cleared of formal ethics violations in the grade-change scandal that cost him his job as Florida’s schools chief last year.
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