Let's reverse the trend of childhood poverty in our area

Southern Chester County is arguably one of the nicest areas to live in all of the state. Thereís a unique mix of open space and historic structures with an economy that can be best described as robust. Chester County, in fact, is the wealthiest county in Pennsylvania.

But during the past five years, childhood poverty has increased by 65 percent in southern Chester County. Currently, nine out of every 100 families with children ages 5 to 17 live in poverty in the southern end. Itís a trend that will continue to rise unless action is taken to reverse it.

The United Way of Southern Chester County is about to embark on its 2013 campaign, with a fund-raising goal of $1.25 million. Much of the money raised by United Way goes to combat poverty in southern Chester County. Last year, 32 programs received more than $1 million from the United Way.

ďThe United Way Campaign is about neighbors helping neighbors,Ē said Carrie Freeman, chief executive officer of the United Way of Southern Chester County.

Southern Chester County is unique in the organizations that help needy and disadvantaged people. The Rotary clubs and the Lions clubs and the food cupboards and many more all pitch in, but the problem of childhood poverty persists, and indeed is rising at a fast pace.

In the Avon Grove School District, nearly 6 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 17 live in poverty. In Oxford, itís nearly 11 percent, in Kennett itís 15 percent and in Unionville, itís 3.3 percent. Even though Unionville, one of the wealthiest school districts in the county, has the lowest rate of childhood poverty in the four school districts, it has been rising over the years.

Certainly, the economy has been tough for many the past few years. Many employees have lost jobs to downsizing, and many others received little, if any, wage hikes. Meanwhile, prices of goods and services continue to rise.

What can we do about all of this?

For starters, contributing to the United Way campaign would be a good idea. The funds that United Way of Southern Chester County gets stay in the community and benefit needy residents and organizations. And if money is tight, how about volunteering at organizations like La Comunidad Hispana, or Tick Tock Early Learning Center -- two places that help defray living costs to migrant families.

You can help your neighbor. Contributions to United Way can be made online at www.unitedwayscc.org or mailed to United Way, 106 W. State St., Kennett Square Pa. 19348.

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