In her daily work, Angela Klopf learns of poverty much greater than that seen by the general public.
"People don't advertise when they're struggling. Would we even know if our next-door neighbor had their electric shut off, unless we saw the utility truck pull up and saw them disconnect the service?" remarked Klopf, who serves as director of Tioga Outreach Center in Waverly.
Klopf said she assists numerous Tioga County-area families who would rather not reach out for help, but feel they have no choice.
"People want to be self-sufficient and do well for themselves. When certain situations like divorce, domestic abuse, being laid off or becoming disabled strike a family, it's very hard for them to have to ask someone else to help just to meet their own families' basic needs," she said.
Based on her experiences, Klopf feels it's important that poverty is being spotlighted as Public Policy Weekend, set for Feb. 12-13, approaches. Petition-signing efforts will be conducted in parishes across the Diocese of Rochester addressing this year's advocacy priority as selected by the diocesan Public Policy Committee, "Working Out of Poverty/Option for the Poor."
The committee seeks to minimize state budget cuts for programs aiding the needy -- particularly initiatives for low-income workers, such as those that help provide transportation to jobs, job training and education. Petitions signed on Public Policy Weekend will be forwarded by diocesan and parish officials to state legislators.
According to information provided on the diocesan website (www.dor.org), these types of programs are vital during a time when the rate of child poverty in Rochester is among the highest in the country; rural poverty in the diocese is reflected in a lack of decent housing, services and job opportunities; and our economic recession is so acute that poverty has spread to the suburbs through job loss and home foreclosures.
Klopf said she's glad the Public Policy Committee is prioritizing the poor "because helping people to acknowledge and act on meeting the needs of their community is half the battle of restoring dignity to the families that live on incomes below or just above the federal poverty limit. People can't help with something when they aren't aware to what extent it exists."
Klopf and Andrea Mattoon, a fellow Catholic Charities staff member, were among the scheduled presenters at a social-ministry seminar on Jan. 29 at Catholic Charities in Elmira that served as a lead-in to Public Policy Weekend. Klopf and Mattoon reflected on the theme of "Who Is My Neighbor?" by sharing experiences of impoverished families from their region.
Mattoon, who serves as grants manager for Catholic Charities of Chemung/Schuyler, described a day in the life of a low-income single parent, a victim of domestic violence and a senior citizen living on a fixed income. She observed that along with increasing awareness and petitioning legislators, another vital component of aiding the poor is through displaying genuine concern.
"The hope is that these insights will not only help us provide more effective services and supports through our agencies and programs, but that we as individuals will show more compassion and love as we reach out and care for our neighbors in need," Mattoon stated.
Klopf added that supporting the poor should be prioritized not just in conjunction with the diocese, "but as human beings and in the ministry work we're all called to do."
In addition to its advocacy priority, the diocesan Public Policy Committee's 2010-11 agenda includes two educational priorities: opposition to the Reproductive Health Act, and energy and climate issues.
The Reproductive Health Act stands in stark contrast to Catholic teaching by seeking to ensure legalized abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy. It also would make abortion immune to any state regulation or restriction, including parental notification for abortions performed on minors, restrictions on taxpayer funding for abortion and informed-consent requirements for pregnant women.
Energy and climate awareness stems from scientific findings that the earth's climate is being altered, with human activity being the likely cause and possibly resulting in many dangerous climate changes.The Public Policy Committee also contends that energy production and consumption are strongly related to these concerns.