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Today's word on journalism

January 13, 2009

Breakneck:

"I get the feeling that the 24-hour news networks are like the bus in the movie 'Speed.' If they stop talking for a second, they think they'll blow up."

--Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, 2008 (Thanks to alert WORDster Ross Martin)

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Food pantry, Sub for Santa offer help in tough times

By Jami Elzinga

December 10, 2008 | LOGAN -- Rising gas prices, food shortages, and employers cutting back on the hours allotted for employees are all factors affecting Cache Valley as the rest of the United States.

There are many venues of help available to those who are in need this time of year. For some, the problem is finding out where to go to get that help. Standing in the line in front of the Cache Valley Food Pantry, patrons such as Lisette and the Kusbachs had no clue what programs were available to assist them.

This was Lisette's first visit to the food pantry because her husband's hours were cut at work. She and her five kids, ages 12, 9, 8, 6, and 4, are hoping this will help them out until her husband's hours are restored again. Lisette is hoping it will take only a month or two. When asked about any other services she was using to help out her family during this time, she didn't know there was anything else she could use.

The Kusbachs are in a similar situation. Originally from the Czech Republic, they have been in the US for about three or four years, depending on which family member you talk to. Father and son were both present to get supplies for their family.

This is the second year they have been partaking from the food pantry because the father, Tony Kusbach, is studying at USU to get his Ph.D. His son is also a student at USU. The family also includes his wife and another son, age 14, all surviving off of Kusbach's scholarship, and after his tuition of $6,000 per semester is paid there is little money left.

Kusbach is only able to work 20 hours per week because of the university's regulations. His wife's visa won't allow her to work in the states. The family is able to come two times a month, based on regulations set by the food pantry. You must also be able to prove income and residency to receive aid from the pantry as well.

The numbers are rising compared to last year. Already the number of people using the food pantry is growing. Matt Whitaker, who is been the director for the past six years of the Cache Community Food Pantry reports seeing at least a third more families in need over last year's numbers. Last year he said there were approximately 85 - 100 people, and this year there are about 120-130 people.

Connie Bodily, director of the Sub for Santa program, also reported an increase in numbers of those needing assistance this holiday season. Last year the program had about 575 that were being helped. This year they have approximately 730 who have applied. They are giving services to about 500 of those, with some still waiting for the answer that they will be helped.

Those that are turned away don't meet the qualifications of the program, she said. To qualify for Sub for Santa, applicants must have a valid Utah ID, be a resident of Utah, have at least one child over the age of 18 months of age, and meet income guidelines (125 percent of the federal poverty level, and be able to provide proof).

Once they are accepted into the program for aid, they are allowed to be in it for five years. They can be on it for three consecutive years and then take a year off. After the year off they can finish the last two.

"It's meant to be a temporary help, not a permanent solution," Bodily said.

There is still hope out there for some. Those that know of any other assistance or aid reach out to those programs for help.

Angie Duncombe is one person that they can go to. Duncombe runs a program out of The Herald Journal that is similar to Sub for Santa. She helps out those who do not meet the qualifications for the Sub for Santa program.

This will be the fourth or fifth year for Angie. She first started doing this because people would call the newspaper asking how they could help out families or seeking assistance for themselves. Since the Sub for Santa program stops running a couple weeks before Christmas, Duncombe decided she would start up her own. It goes until 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve; that way there is still time to have the families pick up their things as well as the donations to be dropped off. It is all done anonymously.

These programs run off private funding and donations. The Sub for Santa program has a few different sponsors, but their main sponsors are ShopKo and Lee's Marketplace. Other businesses like Nate and Andy's or the Sports Academy help to contribute, and businesses also have the chance to pick a name off a tree anywhere in Cache Valley to sponsor and buy gifts for.

It was a consensus among all those at the food pantry that this is a great opportunity to help out those in need.

Claudia, a local resident, said "If you need it, come fill out an application. If you qualify you might as well take advantage of it. I wouldn't be able to survive without it."

Kusbach hopes this will inform other foreign students that there is extra help available. It cuts back about 1/3 of the cost of food expenses, and allows them to save that money for monthly bills.

If you have any questions or would like to help out feel free to contact any of these agencies to get more information.

Cache Valley Food Pantry -- 359 S. Main, Logan
(435) 753-7140

Sub for Santa -- PO Box 4603, Logan
(435) 752-6315

Angie Duncombe -- 75 W. 300 North, Logan
(435) 792-7292

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Copyright 1997-2009 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-3292
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