Community aids hungry, homeless

Through a variety of events next week, Catawba County aid organizations will raise awareness and fight against hunger and homelessness.

In the past 10 years, poverty has increased 77 percent in Catawba County, with nearby areas like Sherrills Ford being deemed some of the poorest in the region, according to data recently released by the Western Piedmont Council of Governments.

The struggling economy has also taken a toll on an area that historically employed manufacturers, farmers and laborers.

In 2008, 13.8 percent of county families were living in poverty, compared to 11.1 percent in 2007, according to North Carolina census statistics. An additional 5 percent of all households in Catawba County have no vehicle available for personal use.

As poverty has increased, hunger and homelessness has, too.

Between 2000 and June 2010, Catawba County saw a 389 percent increase in food assistance recipients, according to the N.C. Food Stamp database. In 2010, 44.6 percent of food assistance recipients were 20 years old or younger.

Next week, the county’s social services department, Catawba County United Way, Mental Health Partners and many other organizations will partner to host a series of events with the homeless community.

The events are part of the nationwide Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and include:

n Sunday — The public is invited to attend a worship service that is held weekly for people who are homeless at 8 a.m. on Union Square in Hickory.

n Monday — The Carolina Theater in Hickory will show the movie “The Help” at 7 p.m. to benefit awareness. Admission is by donation of an item for a homeless person.

Admission is free for the homeless.

n Tuesday — The public is invited to participate in games of Bingo with people experiencing homelessness at 1 p.m. at the Hickory Soup Kitchen.

n Tuesday — There will be a Homeless Forum at the Catawba Valley Community College Auditorium at 5:30 p.m. The keynote speaker will be Hugh Hollowell, director of Love Wins Ministries, a ministry for individuals who are homeless in the Raleigh area. Several local people who are homeless will also speak about their experiences.

Those attending are asked to bring items for donation to local individuals experiencing homelessness.

n Wednesday — There will be a Hunger Banquet at 6 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Hickory. The cost is $6.

n Thursday — The iCare 4 Catawba Tour of Resources will be held be held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Participants will meet at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, where they will eat breakfast. They will then board vans for a tour of the area’s resources for children in need throughout the county, featuring agencies in Hickory, Conover and Newton. The event will conclude with lunch. The cost is $10 per person, and advance registration is required. For more information, call 695-5648.

n Friday — The public will experience the struggles of homelessness through a Sleep Out at the YMCA. For more information or to register, contact Darin Williams at 324-2858.

n Saturday — There will be a Block Party at 11 a.m. at Grace House at 600 Highland Ave., Hickory. Grace House is a day shelter for the homeless.