The July 4th weekend is upon us, and I have been thinking about the meaning of Independence Day. July 4, 1776, is the date the American Colonies, still at war with England, adopted the Declaration of Independence.
The Declaration announced that the 13 American Colonies were now independent states and were no longer a part of the British Empire. We all learned in school the famous words contained in the Declaration: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
We don’t consciously think about these words in our daily activities at the Trustee’s Office. But, my staff and I always try to treat every person who walks into our office for help equally and with respect. We understand that, under different circumstances, each of us could be that person coming through our door needing rental or utility assistance.
We at the Wayne Township Trustee’s Office also work toward ensuring that our clients are treated equally outside our office by advocating for the poor. Traditionally, Trustee’s Offices have not only provided financial assistance for clients, but have taken on the role of helping those in need by serving as their advocates.
Many times persons living in poverty cannot serve, or do not know how to serve, as their own advocates. They are spending so much time and energy trying to make ends meet that they don’t have any time or energy left to take on an advocacy role. This often leaves the poor with no voice in issues that intimately affect them and does not break the cycle of poverty.
The Wayne Township Trustee’s Office is involved in many activities in its role as an advocate for our residents living in poverty. We try to help persons individually by interacting on their behalf with other agencies. We partner with other agencies that are trying to help those in need.
One example is our partnership with Community Harvest Food Bank in bringing the Farm Wagon to our office every week to provide food for our clients. Associated Churches also has a food bank located in our office to help clients meet their needs for food, cleaning and paper products.
Further, several of my staff members serve on committees or are part of organizations that are working to help the poor. Director of Intake/Investigations SuzAnne Runge is chairperson of the Communications Action Team that is part of the Mayor’s Social Services Summit. Director of Legal and Media Services Karen Walker is representing the Trustee’s Office on the Bicycle Task Force, which is working on methods to make bicycles a more viable method of transportation.
I, or a member of my staff, regularly make presentations to groups seeking information about our office and the clients we serve. We often have informational booths at social services fairs or other events that serve Wayne Township residents, and we sometimes are involved in planning these events. We also plan our own events to raise awareness of the challenges faced by the poor in our community, such as our recent Bike to Work and Walk to Work Days.
Most importantly, I attend community events to meet you, listen to your concerns and answer your questions.
Richard A. Stevenson, Sr.
Wayne Township Trustee