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Summertime is a good time to help those in need


Summertime and the Living is Easy.  (From the opera Porgy and Bess by Ira and George Gershwin)

Well, it is summer time here in Parker County but, the living is not so easy for some folks.

I recently spoke with Traci Markwardt, Executive Director of the Center of Hope in Weatherford, to ask how things were going at the Center. I had seen multiple media reports that charity giving was down nearly four percent nationwide in 2022, 10% when adjusted for inflation. It was the fourth time in 40 years for such a decrease. 

Markwardt told me that their in-kind giving was up slightly and that donations were about the same for 2023 so far. Sales at the Hope Chest, their upscale resale shop, are about even. The overall number of services the Center provides is impressive, to say the least

She also reported that demand has increased for 2023. The Center has received 15,000 visits through June, an increase of 35% over 2022. In a typical year, there is an increase of 18% of new families. This year, that number has doubled to 36%.

She reports that food assistance is up 40% with 17,300 individuals receiving groceries through their food pantry, and the Center has served 18,800 meals in their dining room which is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Thursday. All are served meals who want them. Local churches and organizations help prepare the meals. She also reports that, with inflation, food costs are up 12-17 %.

The Center offers more services including dental, medical, utilities, and professional counseling. That demand is up 19 % for 2023.

All of these numbers are for the first six months of the year. It’s a long time until December!

Markwardt says that the summer is a most difficult time as donations of cash and in-kind to the food pantry slow down. The schools are not open for lunch and there has been a cut back of funding because of government cuts to Medicaid and SNAP. 

 The Center helps by providing summer camps, called Camp Hope, to kids where they are taught to prepare meals and then given ingredients to take home and prepare a meal at home. There are 11 such camps held in low income neighborhoods.The children get fresh produce and proteins.

One cost-cutting measure is a collaboration with the Parker County Hospital District. The Center was sending clients to expensive clinics. Now the Center has a telediagnostic  medical clinic inside the Center where patients are seen for half the coast.

I asked her how they were avoiding a deficit in the face of so much demand and price increases. She said emphatically that God and this community have taken care of the Center for 25 years, and she does not fear a shortfall. She said their diversified areas of funding (no government funds), including grants, support from 60 churches, 65 businesses, and multiple individuals in the Parker County Community, help meet their needs. That the Center is meeting serving so many people in need with all of these challenges is a true statement of their faith. 

How can you and I help? You can visit their website www.centerofhopetx.com and you will see many ways to contribute. You can go to your pantry and find some groceries, or go to the store and buy some, and take them to the Center at 1318 Clear Lake Road in Weatherford,. You can donate on-line or mail a check. You can volunteer. You can go on a shopping spree at the Hope Chest and find some bargains. You can look around your house and see what you could donate for them to sell. You can hold a food drive in your church, neighborhood, or other organization. 

But do something now, so that the summer time can be a little bit easier for folks in need.

Richard Henderson is a local resident who practices law and helps rescue unwanted animals.


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