Unemployment down in Long Island, but hunger evident in Suffolk County

Although Long Island’s unemployment rate in September fell to 6.9 percent from 7.2 percent over a year ago, according to the New York State Department of Labor, families are still struggling to buy meals and pay monthly bills.

There were 11,300 fewer jobs in October on Long Island than the year before, the sixth straight month of year-over-year declines, according to state labor data in Newsday.

With the holiday season quickly approaching the impact of the unemployment crisis and the state of the economic recession can still be felt for those struggling families in Suffolk County, NY.

“The government can’t do it all on their own,” said Jane Bonner, 2nd District Councilwoman in the Town of Brookhaven. “These times of year people are appreciative of what they have.”

The 2nd Council District spans the North Shore of Long Island in Suffolk County from the towns of Mount Sinai, Sound Beach, Miller Place, and Wading River to parts of Ridge, Middle Island and Coram.

The St.Louis de Montfort Church located in Sound Beach, NY in Suffolk County continues to lend a helping hand in aiding families who are struggling to make it day-by-day for food and clothing.

St.Louis de Montfort Roman Catholic Church in Sound Beach, NY. Photo by Steve Cuce

“There are close to 200 families struggling for food, gas, electricity and health bills,” said Jane Guido, coordinator of the St.Louis de Montfort Community Outreach program.

“I hope to see a decrease, but from what is going on I think I am going to see an increase.  I already see [as of late October] people are looking for help with their fuel and looking for help with their rents,” Guido said.

In October of 2011 the St.Louis de Montfort Community Outreach program served 75 families with a total of 239 people said Guido. These figures were based on her statistics sent to Long Island Cares, which is Long Island’s first food bank and comprehensive hunger assistance organization.

St.Louis de Montfort Community Outreach Office in Sound Beach, NY. Photo by Steve Cuce

“Every month we have to send Long Island Cares a statistic of how many people we serve. Now in September of 2011 we served 189 people and 192 people for August 2011,” Guido said. “We tally up how many families and we break it down to children and adults and seniors.”

Despite the decline in unemployment rate the number of families served continues to show alarming figures in 2011 for the St.Louis de Montfort Community Outreach program.

“Certain months in the summer it was 173 people for July of 2011. Now June was 206 people. It was up a little bit,” Guido said. “It was 149 people for May. It was 175 people for April.”

In April the St.Louis de Montfort Community Outreach program also gave an additional 94 families Easter baskets and a food bag. There were 238 people served last March.

“As you can see it varies,” Guido said. “We did 176 people, but we were closed three days in the month of January due to snowstorms.”

For the last 14 years the Sound Beach Civic Association in Miller Place, NY located in Suffolk County has been participating in a joint initiative called the “Sponsor-A-Family Drive” during the holiday season with the St.Louis de Montfort Community Outreach program. This initiative aids families in need said Ann Moran, treasurer of the Sound Beach Civic.

“It’s wonderful they step up and do this,” said Bonner. “The best part is that it directly impacts and improves quality of life during the holiday season.”

The St.Louis de Montfort Community Outreach program has four main events that include Operation Bunny (Easter), Operation Backpack (Back to School), Operation Big Bird (Thanksgiving) and Operation Christmas Giving Tree.

“At Thanksgiving when people come to pick up their Thanksgiving baskets, which we give them a complete Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, stuffing, the whole dinner – at that time they fill out what we call a ‘Christmas Wish List,’ ” Guido said.

On this “Christmas Wish List” families that are suffering from unemployment write down on a small note three gifts that their children might want for every child that is 17 years and under in age. Furthermore, the St.Louis de Montfort Community Outreach and the Sound Beach Civic take those lists and put them onto the “Giving Tree” in the form of tags.

The town members of the Sound Beach Civic and parishioners of the St.Louis de Montfort Church pick a tag then go out and buy the items and attach the tags to the gifts. The St.Louis de Montfort Community Outreach will then take the gifts and wrap them to be ready for distribution to the families.

“Last year we did two families because the Sound Beach Community didn’t have one,” Moran said. “This drive means a lot to me. We all know people hurting right now. It is our responsibility to give back.”

“The St.Louis de Montfort Community Outreach program has been feeding 150 families during Christmas time.”

The St.Louis de Montfort Community Outreach program also provides supplemental food and groceries from their food pantry. They must lean on volunteers to help provide these services.

“You figure you can help out,” said Peggy Pantozzi, volunteer at the St.Louis de Montfort Community Outreach. “Instead of sitting at home and doing nothing you could be here and helping out people that need your help.”

The work of the volunteers helps feed the unemployed community that is in need of help in Sound Beach, Miller Place and Mount Sinai.

“There are always people who need assistance,” said Ethal Petta, volunteer at the St.Louis de Montfort Community Outreach. “Many of them are not happy to have to come for it.”

“I’m 84 years old now and one of the reasons I came back was because I felt it was important to be able to do something to help out.”

The Sound Beach Civic feels their initiative to help the unemployed of Suffolk County, NY is an important cause.

“Last year we did one family that had eight adopted children,” said Bea Ruberto, president of the Sound Beach Civic. “We had close to $1,000 to help them.”

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