The Groveport Madison community is looking to organize and increase its efforts to help those in the area who are in need.
A crowd of 40 to 60 people – including representatives from Groveport Madison Local Schools, the civic group Go Groveport, a variety of churches, local governments, community organizations, and individual citizens – gathered at the Groveport Madison administrative offices on Feb. 26 for the Groveport Madison Community Summit. The purpose of the summit was to discuss creating a plan that would efficiently link the community’s resources to better enable help to reach the less fortunate.
"If you want to find out what the needs are in the community, ask the schools," said State Representative Larry Flowers.
Added Groveport Madison Schools Superintendent Scott McKenzie, "The school staff see the community every day. We know what the needs are and deal with a variety of students."
McKenzie said that from 1999 to 2004 the poverty rate in Ohio rose from 12 to 17 percent and the percentage of kids living in poverty rose by 7 percent during that same period.
"We definitely see that reflected in the Groveport Madison school district," said McKenzie, and cited the number of children who are qualified to receive free or reduced cost lunches in the district.
According to McKenzie, the percentages of students in each of the district’s 10 buildings receiving free or reduced cost lunches are: Asbury, 24 percent; Dunloe, 52 percent; Glendening, 52 percent; Groveport, 37 percent; Madison, 55 percent; Sedalia, 50 percent; Middle School North, 56 percent; Middle School South, 57 percent; Junior High, 44 percent; and the High School, 28 percent.
Christine Boucher of Go Groveport told the gathering that Groveport Madison Adopt-a-Family (GMAAF), which is facilitated by Go Groveport, provided food, clothing, toys, and other support to 350 children from 107 families at Christmas time.
She lauded the help the Groveport Madison students gave the GMAAF at Christmas.
"It was students helping students," said Boucher.
Since December she said the GMAAF has helped a dozen more families totaling 22 children with assistance with rent, furniture, guidance, and other support.
"The phone hasn’t stopped since Christmas," said McKenzie. "We need to see if we can get more hands into this to make lighter work. If we can get organized and find available resources, we may be able to help more families."
Boucher said there is a need for a plan to coordinate and track the community’s efforts to help those in need.
"There are pockets of assistance in the community, but there is no one place in our school district community where those in crisis can go to call for guidance or assistance," said Boucher. "There are people living paycheck to paycheck or who have suffered an illness or job loss who need help. They get into a situation where they panic, which can lead to desperate measures."
She said the Groveport Madison community is known as a "loving and supportive community" and gave the example of a struggling family who left Mississippi to move to the Groveport area because they heard that there are "great people here."
Boucher outlined four goals for the gathering to discuss: identify the needs; create a plan; communicate the plan; and implement the plan.
She said the plan would ideally "bring together those in our community who have a knowledge base of information related to the human needs of the community and compile information on how those in crisis are currently being served by various agencies."
The Groveport Madison Human Needs Committee will pull together the information culled from discussion groups at the summit to create the plan. Boucher said no timetable has been set yet for when the plan will be in place.
"We want to help people, but we also want to help them be able to help themselves," said Boucher.
Anyone wishing to make a donation to the GMAAF can make a monetary to donation to the organization at the Huntington National Bank. If you wish to donate items such as towels, clothes, and bedding, those donations may be dropped off at Go Groveport, 607 Main St., Groveport.
For information on the Groveport Madison Human Needs Committee or about GMAAF, call Go Groveport at (614) 836-7939.