LIMA, Ohio - Tiffany is a 7-year-old girl who loves coloring books. Zach is a 10-year-old boy who likes remote control cars. Kara is 6 and loves baby dolls.
Tiffany, Zach and Kara are all children in the community who are hoping to be adopted by a family this Christmas. Their names, along with many others, have been placed on an Angel Tree in the Lima Engine Plant (LEP), and historically, LEP has risen to the challenge of ensuring these children have a merry Christmas.
For some families, the holiday season brings added stress and anxiety about how to provide for their children. The stagnant economy and job loss has struck the community hard, and families are struggling to simply put food on the table. Christmas, at times, becomes an after-thought.
Fortunately, the true reason for the season is evident in the hearts of LEP employees, and the holidays bring about a renewed sense of community and giving. Some throw money in the bell ringer’s bucket. Others buy a coat for a needy child. Some might visit an elderly neighbor.
According to Charity Navigator, a clearinghouse that tracks charitable giving, nearly 60 percent of American families will donate money or goods to a charity this year. Over 20 percent of Americans will donate their time by volunteering. Nearly 24 percent will adopt a child from an Angel Tree.
Historically, LEP and the local UAW 1219 have consistently shown their commitment to the community by serving meals at the Our Daily Bread soup kitchen, or shopping for toys for a child their family has adopted this year. Each year, LEP employees choose to contribute approximately $80,000 to the Allen County United Way, which helps to support a variety of charitable causes each year.
“I’m proud of our employees, who continually give of their time and resources to help many local and national charities,” said LEP Plant Manager Mike Felix. “We’re fortunate at LEP to have an active and community-minded work force that does their part to make sure our less fortunate families truly have a blessed holiday season. It’s always heartwarming to see how our employees respond to the challenges many families in our community are currently facing.”
At the Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen, Executive Director Steve Jenkins has been touched by the support he’s received over the years from LEP. While the need for assistance is evident throughout the year, it’s even more critical during the holiday season.
“We all want to have some normalcy and opportunity to experience what so many look forward to each year with the coming holidays,” Jenkins said. “For many, it’s a time that presents further struggles as we live on fixed and low incomes trying to ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ when it comes to utilities or medications.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment rose slightly in October (the latest data released) and came in at 7.9 percent. Throughout 2012, unemployment numbers have declined and the country has enjoyed some modest job growth.
Still, millions of American families remain jobless, and the effects of Hurricane Sandy are now being fully realized. It all makes for somewhat of a dismal holiday season for families who are seeking work and a steady income.
Christmas can also be somewhat depressing for the elderly, many of whom live alone. Some even choose not to celebrate. In Lima, these people can find solace, and friendship, at Our Daily Bread. “For those living alone, it’s just complicated to cook for one when the food availability in the radius of where you live is non-existent,” Jenkins said. “Our Daily Bread becomes a place for fellowship, socialization, community and meeting the needs of many with a simple meal that allows them to budget what little they have.”
Deanna Bowersock, UAW ESSP/EDTP Rep, is helping to coordinate this year’s Angel Tree project, and she’s grateful she’s a part of an active and charitable group of UAW employees. “Whether we’re collecting food for a soup kitchen or sponsoring a child at Christmas, our employees work hard to meet the needs in our community,” she said.
For a list of local charities, or information on how you can help a family through the holidays, call the Allen County United Way at 419-227-6341.