Editorial: Help-A-Family helps Long Islanders in need

Pastor Curtis Terry with Island Harvest loads a Pastor Curtis Terry with Island Harvest loads a turkey into a bin during the 5th annual Bethpage turkey drive. (Nov. 15, 2013) Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

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The recession is over, economists have declared. But it doesn't feel that way for many on Long Island. Here, economic woes linger on. That's partly because of the ongoing effects of superstorm Sandy and partly because our recovery lags behind other parts of the country. Too many people remain unemployed. Others are underemployed. And pressing social needs have become no less urgent.

As a region, we are resilient. But the challenges faced by many individuals are so steep they cannot make it on their own. Making matters worse, our counties, towns, cities and villages continue to react to budget difficulties by trimming services, further fraying the safety net for those who are struggling.

They -- we -- need your help.

Newsday Charities' annual Help-A-Family campaign kicked off Nov. 3 and will continue through the end of January. Money raised goes to a host of nonprofits across Long Island that provide invaluable services to the most vulnerable among us -- food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, education and training for those who need it, child abuse prevention programs, refuge for victims of domestic violence.

Since 2000, Help-A-Family has raised more than $12 million and given out more than 400 grants. Your donation goes a long way, thanks to a 50 percent match from the McCormick Foundation. That means that every $10 you donate becomes $15, all of which goes directly to those who need it. There is no cap on what the McCormick Foundation will match, and administrative expenses are covered by Newsday and the foundation.

The money is given to organizations large and small. For example:

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Island Harvest, the region's largest hunger-relief organization, has hundreds of volunteers who distribute food and services through a network of fellow nonprofits. Officials say they are seeing twice as many people seeking food as last year. Island Harvest received a $75,000 grant from the last campaign, which helped its backpack program give 1,700 children from high-poverty areas four meals to bring home on Fridays to ensure they have something to eat over the weekend.

Mommas House is a Nassau County mother-child residential program for young homeless women who are pregnant or parenting. They can stay at one of four homes for as long as two years, and commit to changing their situations by either going to school or receiving job training. A grant of $25,000 helped pay for child care, so mothers could pursue the schooling and training that can make such a difference in their ability to succeed.

New Ground helps families and veterans struggling with homelessness, and believes education is empowerment. But the majority of children experiencing homelessness read below grade level. A $20,000 grant helped fund the group's Reading All-Stars Program; most of its participants improved their reading skills at least one grade level last year.

Please help if you can. To donate, or to learn more about Help-A-Family, visit newsday.com/helpafamily, or call 631-843-3056.

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