The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

August 25, 2013

Children first

The Register-Herald

— A workshop titled “Our Children, Our Future” was hosted last week at the Dream Center in Beckley.

The goal was to mobilize communities to fight child poverty and was attended by representatives of state churches, agencies and nonprofit organizations.

Ideas were offered for communities to define grassroots strategies in order to fight poverty on state and local levels. Issues discussed included community revitalization, minimum wage, affordable housing, physical activity in school, teen pregnancy and sex education, juvenile justice reform and substance abuse.

The workshops were designed to roll into a Statewide Policy Symposium to be held on Sept. 24-25 in Charleston, at which groups will present ideas to the Senate Select Committee on Children and Poverty.

We are encouraged and inspired by the efforts of many of our local citizens who take these issues seriously — and set out to make a difference.

A majority of state residents can relate to being below a “self-sustainability level” according to statistics shared by Stephen Smith, executive director of West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition.

“If you look at the self-sustainability level — that is, (families who earn) enough to make a living, sending your kids to school, all the basics, which is actually higher than the poverty level — 52 percent of West Virginia families are below the self-sustainability level,” he said.

That is quite revealing.

His point was on target, as we saw about a week ago when more than 3,000 people showed up at the Beckley YMCA Soccer Complex for a Day of Hope, accepting free groceries, free shoes and a host of other needs such as health screenings at no charge — no questions asked.

There are great needs in our state and region.

And a plan must be in place to reverse the trend toward poverty or a dependence on government assistance.

May the phrase “Our children are our future” not become a tired, over-used comment without fully recognizing its true meaning.

Children do represent the future.

In making preparations for what is to come and how our state and community will respond to the challenges ahead, may we be willing to equip our youngest generation by giving them their best chance to realize their fullest potential.

And may they not instead be encumbered with thoughts of where their next meal is coming from.

May the next generation be ready to change the world in a positive note, and not be looking to be satisfied with a meager or impoverished existence.

Our children, our grandchildren and those who come along after deserve our best attempt at leaving them a fair shot at prospering — health-wise and economically.

That’s the very least we could do for them.