News From Terre Haute, Indiana


September 16, 2012

MARK BENNETT: Awareness of a growing hunger problem requires empathy

TERRE HAUTE — Forty-one thousand people.

A story behind each one.

People often presume they know the reasons others show up at a soup kitchen or food pantry.

John Etling figured he understood the motivation of a teenager who came to the Terre Haute Catholic Charities and the Ryves Youth Center buildings on Locust Street. Etling, agency director for Terre Haute Catholic Charities, was guiding a tour of the facilities for a local service group when the boy asked him to shoot some hoops in the gym, before getting lunch at the hall’s kitchen.

When the tour ended, Etling did just that. Other kids, watching the two play basketball, asked the teen if Etling was his dad.

“And he turned and looked at me, and said, ‘Yes. That’s my dad,’” Etling told members of various hunger-relief agencies gathered last Thursday morning in the Ryves dining hall.

Moved and humbled by the moment, Etling later asked the boy his story. His parents, both substance abusers, had just divorced and left. His brother was in juvenile detention. This teenager was abandoned. Alone. Homeless. “Couch-surfing,” a desperate practice in which discarded young people sleep in the homes of friends and anybody else who’ll take them in.

“And here, all I thought this kid was in need of was a nutritious meal,” Etling said, as the audience listened in silence.

The cause prompting Thursday’s assembly, and several other upcoming events, was Hunger Action Month, marked throughout September. The activities include this week’s United Way of the Wabash Valley/Terre Haute Catholic Charities Hunger Challenge. That project asks local residents — those who don’t have to worry about the source of their next meal — to eat for one week on $29.27 worth of food groceries. The figure represents the average weekly total that Vigo County recipients of food stamps (now known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits) have to spend on groceries. That comes to $4.18 a day.

The number of Vigo County households receiving those benefits rose from 7,551 in 2011 to 8,051 this year. In west-central Indiana, 41,000 residents, including 13,500 children, live in “food insecurity,” according to Catholic Charities. The term refers to people with limited or uncertain access to nutritionally adequate and safe foods, acquired in “socially acceptable ways.” In this region, 1 in 6 people is food insecure. Among children, 1 in 4 lives at risk of hunger.

Such statistics surprise many people.

Recently, Etling took a successful local businessman on a tour of Catholic Charities and Ryves, explaining that 54 percent of students in the Vigo County School Corp. receive free or reduced-cost lunches. More than half. In 2000, just a dozen years ago, the figure was 35 percent.

The businessman reacted similarly to others who’ve learned of the startling numbers. “The common response is, ‘I never knew. I had no idea,’” Etling said.

Their reactions are understandable, human nature. “I think sometimes we have our blinders on,” he said.

Indeed, thousands of people living in and around Terre Haute have never stood in line for meals or food goods at the Light House Mission, Ryves, Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army, or church food pantries. Unfortunately, many of us — despite that lack of firsthand knowledge — presume to know the reasons others find themselves standing in those lines or receiving food-assistance benefits, and figure they simply need to find a job and a way out of welfare.

The thing is, that’s not the reality. Less than 2 percent of emergency-food recipients receive welfare benefits, according to research by Feeding America. One-third of emergency-food recipients drew the main source of income from a job in the previous month. There’s more — 65 percent of food-pantry clients are women, 96 percent are U.S. citizens, and 67 percent are registered voters.

Many are senior citizens. Many are kids.

All have a different story — stories most of us don’t know.

At Catholic Charities, those seeking food are frequently “single women, and single women with children,” said Jennifer Buell, the agency’s development director. “The life situations vary in how they get to that point.” Some have seen their family break apart. Some are financially broke from insurmountable medical bills. Some just lost their jobs. Though meals provided at places like the Catholic Charities food bank and soup kitchen come at no financial cost to the recipient, all have paid a price in other ways, Etling said, in terms of self-esteem, confidence or dignity.

Many of them never dreamed they’d be asking for help. “We hear that all the time,” Buell said. “Your heart goes out to them, because if you were ever in that situation, it’s very stressful.”

Behind the hunger are unique stories of other needs — for a restored relationship, protection, a job, a home, a dad.

Etling told another story of a youngster who showed up at the charity’s preschool. The little boy was unusually rambunctious. Curious, the teacher asked him if he’d had breakfast at home. The boy told her he hadn’t, “because it wasn’t his turn,” Etling said.

On the surface, he just looked like a rowdy boy. Likewise, the kid in the gym just looked like a teenager wanting to hoop and then eat.

There was more to their stories.

Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or


Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • RONN MOTT: Troubled history in that place called Iraq

    People are dying, again, in Iraq. And, again, people other than Iraqis will ultimately make the decision about what happens to this ancient land.

    July 11, 2014

  • Editorial: The Bennett ‘settlement’

    It takes a special kind of arrogance to flout ethics laws in the manner which former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett has violated them. Even when he finally admitted his transgressions, he claimed he could have avoided the matter altogether had he just changed the department’s ethics policy before engaging in the troublesome conduct.
    In essence, this was the old “mistakes were made” acknowledgment of wrongdoing. And the real mistake to which Bennett admits was apparently not changing the rules before he violated them. This is a truly Nixonian moment.

    July 10, 2014

  • Readers’ Forum: July 11, 2014

    July 10, 2014

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: That Old Man River

    I was surprised to learn the people in Cairo are now taking water taxis to avoid the traffic, the confusion and the dangers that are appearing on Cairo, Egypt’s, streets. I mean, I was surprised the people in Cairo, these native Egyptians, were surprised they could take a water taxi and get to where they wanted to go using the Nile River as a highway. So, for the Egyptians living in Cairo, everything old is brand new again.

    July 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • EDITORIAL: A green idea worth pursuing

    It sounds like a blue-ribbon idea.

    July 9, 2014

  • READERS' FORUM: July 10, 2014

    • Herb Faire a great success

    • Appreciation for a ‘lovely angel’

    • Thanks for stirring fireworks show

    July 9, 2014

  • tstribunestar EDITORIAL: Be safe, be responsible

    The Independence Day weekend brought a brief respite in construction work on area roadways. In particular, it provided needed relief to the congested segment of Interstate 70 in Clay County that is undergoing resurfacing this summer.

    July 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • Readers’ Forum: July 9, 2014

    • Don’t eliminate our six-day mail

    • Zamperini death stirs memories

    July 8, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: Black Dog

    We had some excitement around our house the other day and it was not the good kind.
    There was a small dog, black in color with a spiked collar on his neck, and he was the spitting image of a small Doberman. I don’t know if they have miniature Dobermans but this dog could have been a mixed breed that came out looking like a Doberman although smaller.

    July 8, 2014

  • Readers’ Forum: July 8, 2014

    • T-S ignores common decency

    • Lighten up on Donald Sterling

    • Time to reject Dems in Congress

    Fueling the EPA

    July 7, 2014

  • MS. TAKES: Great music is made during all generations

    Number Two son tells us that his 20-year-old son has been listening to “Big Band” music with apparent enjoyment. As if that wasn’t enough of a surprise, I was talking with a young girl, barely out of her teens and she told us that she really wasn’t into rap. She said, “It isn’t really music, it’s just talk.”

    July 7, 2014

  • Readers’ Forum: July 7, 2014

    • The moral issue is major issue

    July 6, 2014

  • tstribunestar Editorial: City financial health demands an open, honest discussion

    Obscured by the recent rift over use of departmental funds in the city of Terre Haute’s budget are serious issues related to our city government’s overall financial health. The answers may be mired in the complexity of municipal finance, but coming to grips with the situation is important to the city’s future.

    July 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • Readers’ Forum: July 6, 2014

    • Coats ignoring climate science

    • Do those mustache posters exist?

    • Utility rate freeze took determination

    • What perversion is next in line?

    • Opinions vary, but voters will decide

    • This preaching must stop — now

    • Golf fundraiser a huge success

    July 6, 2014

  • Flashpoint: State’s lawyer has duty to represent state in marriage lawsuit appeal

    Recent federal court actions that first struck down Indiana’s statute limiting marriage to the traditional definition, and then stayed that order pending appeal, have left many in our state in legal limbo. As the attorney who represents state government and defends its laws, I know this difficult case stirs many people’s deeply held beliefs that touch their lives in very personal ways. Not since my office had to represent the state in lawsuits arising from the State Fair disaster has a dispute been so seemingly impossible to address in a way that the public would accept as being fair to all concerned.

    July 6, 2014

  • Flashpoint: The Supreme Court decision and ‘closely held’ corporations

    The much awaited Supreme Court decision in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby came down this week. The court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the 1993 Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA) does cover “closely held” corporations, even if those corporations are for profit.

    July 6, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: Learning more about Jefferson

    During this Fourth of July weekend, I’ll be reading John Meacham’s biography of Thomas Jefferson.

    July 4, 2014

  • EDITORIAL: Celebrate your independence

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
    As eloquent and declaratory as that statement is, implementing its principles has been a decades-long pursuit for these United States of America. Our nation, it seems, is the quintessential work in progress, even though what this country has created in terms of a stable, collective society is, let’s face it, pretty darn good.

    July 3, 2014

  • Readers’ Forum: July 4, 2014

    July 3, 2014

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: The Men Who Made the Country

    The Fourth of July is the day we celebrate our independence from Great Britain. It reminds me of something David Ben-Gurion would say, at a much later date, about British rule: “If you have to have a master, the British are about as good at it as anybody.” Of course, we really don’t need a master.

    July 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • MET 033114 GREG ZOELLER MUG.jpg GREG ZOELLER: State’s lawyer has duty to represent state in marriage lawsuit appeal

    Recent federal court actions that first struck down Indiana’s statute limiting marriage to the traditional definition, and then stayed that order pending appeal, have left many in our state in legal limbo.

    July 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • Readers’ Forum: July 3, 2014

    • Over the top on immigration

    July 2, 2014

  • FLASHPOINT: HIP 2.0 gives consumers better choices

    On Wednesday, the State of Indiana submitted its proposal for the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

    July 2, 2014

  • Gov. Mike Pence (R, Ind.) MIKE PENCE: HIP 2.0 gives consumers better choices

    Today, the state of Indiana submitted its proposal for the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
    If approved, the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 would replace traditional Medicaid for low-income, able-bodied Hoosier adults. Unlike traditional Medicaid, which is government-driven, HIP 2.0 is consumer-driven.

    July 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • Editorial: Texting law serves safety

    July 1 each year marks the day in Indiana when new laws take effect. But rather than focus on new laws today, let’s observe the anniversary of a law that went on the books three years ago this month — the law that barred texting while driving.

    July 1, 2014

  • Readers’ Forum: July 2, 2014

    July 1, 2014

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: Cats

    Looking at the situation as a whole, the adopted cats, plus one, seem to be doing OK. The boys, Magic and Mellow, like to roam occasionally, which causes some consternation when they are gone for a long time.

    July 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • LIZ CIANCONE: Oldtime fans will never give up on the Cubbies

    My Best Friend claims to be the world’s oldest living Cubs fan. I am willing to take him at his word, but surely there is some long-lived fan out there in the right field bleachers who would dispute his claim.

    June 30, 2014

  • Readers’ Forum: July 1, 2014

    • Defying the laws of God
    • Correcting the written record
    • Hands of $$ from Redevelopment
    • Celebrity visit for celebration

    June 30, 2014

  • Flashpoint: New Healthy Indiana Plan our best option

    Some state-run health care exchanges — the brainchild of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — have gotten off to a rocky start, to the point that they are turning to the federal government to pick up the pieces. Indiana’s decision to try to expand the already-existing Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP) in lieu of an exchange seems a more prudent choice every day.

    June 30, 2014

Latest News Poll
AP Video
Police: Prostitute Linked to 2nd Death Chimp-attack Victim Lobbies Congress Texas Shooting Suspect Collapses in Court Raw: Israel, Gaza Exchange Rocket Fire More Immigrants Detained Along Rio Grande LeBron James Says He's Returning to Cavaliers Obama Responds to Hecklers on Immigration FIFA Rejects Suarez Appeal Against Biting Ban Raw: Rebel Leader Weds in Eastern Ukraine Soft Robot Fish Lead New Wave of Robotics World Cup Final Pits Argentina Against Germany Art of Haitian Machete Fighting Revived Downside of Low Mortgage Rates? Less Selling Thousands Attend NYC Firefighter's Funeral Robot Writes Jewish Torah Scroll Man Flees Police in World Cup Scalping Scheme Death Toll Tops 100 As Israel Offense Continues Raw: Australia Hosts Annual Beer Can Regatta Israeli-Palestinian Tensions, Attacks Escalate Robots Gearing Up for Their Own 'World Cup'
NDN Video
Cleveland welcomes home LeBron Houston Killer Collapses in Court When Read Capital Murder Charges for Allegedly Killing Family of Six Worst Valet Ever Wrecks $500K Lamborghini Glee Star Becca Tobin's Boyfriend Matt Bendik Found Dead in Hotel Aerial fish restocking in Utah ScarJo Channels Marilyn Monroe Obama Responds to Hecklers on Immigration Tiny Hamsters Who Ate Burritos are Back for a Tiny Hedgehog's Party Watch Kelly Ripa Get Soaked! 'Referee' Hands Out Yellow Cards for Social Faux Pas in NYC 2014 Emmy Nominees: 8 Snub Shockers Emma Watson Is Va-Va-Voom in Valentino 7 Infamous Sports Blowouts Argentina tops Holland in World Cup semifinals News flush: Japanese toilet exhibition making a splash Emmy Nominations: What to Watch For 'Game of Thrones' Leads 66th Emmy Awards Nominations Photographic 'Proof' That LeBron Is Leaving Miami - @TheBuzzeronFOX Elephant Pool Party at The Oregon Zoo Must-See! Berry and Fallon Form Human Hamster Wheel

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -


    March 12, 2010