Share the wealth
’Tis the season of giving and possibly no
people in Idaho are as able to give as the people of Blaine County.
The numbers don’t lie.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported that the
county’s median household income in 1999 was $50,496—34 percent more than the
state median of $37,572. It was 20 percent more than the national median of
If those numbers aren’t enough to make
residents reach for their checkbooks, consider the valley’s homes.
Blaine County homes are worth more than
twice as much as others in Idaho. The median value of owner-occupied units here
is estimated at $288,800, while the median value in the rest of Idaho is
It’s no secret: Compared to other areas in
Idaho and the United States, residents of Blaine County are wealthy.
Sometimes this is hard to see, located as
we are in an expensive international playground. A $288,000 valley house looks
awfully ordinary compared to the multi-million-dollar,
copper-and-granite-encrusted art pieces some folks call home.
But that doesn’t change the facts.
Recently, the newly formed nonprofit
Hunger Coalition pointed out that in 1999, nearly 8 percent of valley residents
lived below the nationally established poverty level. Given that poverty levels
have increased by about 1 percent in the interim, the local poverty rate today
is 9 percent or more.
This means that about 1,800 of our
neighbors—many of them children—are having a tough go of it. The coalition said
that while no one is starving, many working poor and their families are going
without food for short periods of time. And, the problem is growing.
The problem is acutely embarrassing in
this enclave of wealth, which celebrates good food, good times and the great
outdoors every day of the year.
It’s clear that in this age of budget
cuts, government can’t address poverty alone.
What can be done?
For individuals, doing something is as
easy as writing a check to support an organization working to eradicate
hunger—not only the hunger of the belly, but hunger of the mind as well. There
are many worthy organizations that do fine work. Giving is simple: Choose one
and mail a check.
This would be a good start, but giving
should go deeper.
Valley businesses need to ask themselves
if employees are being paid fairly relative to the local cost of living.
Families who employ household service companies or individuals need to ask
themselves the same question.
Empty stomachs and starving minds are
invisible. It’s up to everyone to reach out, find them, and fill them.