A 2005 series of stories in The News-Times noted the difficulty of dealing with poverty in Columbia County because of its stereotype as a wealthy community.
Since then, community leaders have collaborated more closely on efforts to provide services to lower-income residents. And one of the places directly feeling the impact is in the county's food pantry, Columbia County Cares.
Director Lou Reda says the food bank has seen a 10 percent rise in demand for services in recent months. "When a county grows, everything grows with it, and that includes the amount of people that need help," Reda says.
Much of Columbia County's recent growth, in fact, has been among those with more moderate incomes. As a Labor Day weekend story in The News-Times pointed out, much of the job growth in the county has been in the service industry - especially jobs in retail and food services.
County officials have occasionally heard from employers that the county's housing market is a little pricey for such workers, and the response in recent years has also been a significant growth in the number of apartments and townhomes.
Along with the need for more services and cheaper housing has come a greater demand on schools and on public safety services, however; the sheriff's office recently pointed out that some of the county's apartment complexes have attracted an inordinate and costly amount of attention from deputies.
The good news in that regard is that after The News-Times story by reporter Scott Trubey pointed out the problem, many of those apartment complexes contacted the sheriff's office to take part in a program specially designed to curb crime in those communities.
Taken together, what does all this mean? It means that while Columbia County's rapid growth is a real benefit for the thriving construction, business and real estate communities, it's impossible to ignore the growing cloud around that silver lining.
Just as those apartment complexes worked with law enforcement to improve their own communities, so should all of Columbia County continue to seek ways to manage the difficult realities of a booming population.
One grass-roots suggestion: Volunteers are needed for the annual It's Spooky to be Hungry food drive, which benefits Golden Harvest Food Bank and, by extension, Columbia County Cares. The drive not only collects food and funds to help those who need it, but it also works to build community relationships that are an equally important part of fighting poverty.
To sign up, call (706) 736-1199, extension 229, or go to www.spookytobehungry.org.
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