The Fourth of July weekend is here and, even in these strange times of the COVID-19 pandemic, thinking about the meaning of Independence Day seems as important and relevant as ever. July 4, 1776 is the date that 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, but it is part of our mission and culture here to treat every person who walks into our office for help equally and with dignity and respect. We understand that, under different circumstances, any one of us could be that person coming through our door needing rental or utility assistance.
We also work toward ensuring that our clients are treated fairly outside our office by advocating for our clients with other services in the community. 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 with insufficient means cannot or do not know how to act as their own advocates. They are spending so much just trying to make ends meet that they don’t have any time and energy left to figure out and fight for their own best interests. This often leaves them with no voice in issues that directly affect them, and it leaves the vicious cycle of poverty to continue operating in their lives.
The Wayne Township Trustee’s Office is involved in many activities as an advocate for our residents living in poverty. We try to help persons individually by interacting on their behalf with other agencies. We attend meetings where we learn about the kinds of help being offered by other government agencies, for-profit and not for profit groups and utility and other companies and how those services can benefit our clients. We are always on the lookout to 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 fresh produce and other food for our clients, and we often interact with other clothing banks to help stock our Clothing Emporium.
Trustee Knox or other staff members 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 those events.
These days, during social distancing, we are attending many community meetings on Zoom and even our own staff meetings are happening over the internet. We’ve had to move the vast majority of our interactions with clients to email and the phones. We’re lucky to have access to all this technology so that we can continue to provide fair and equal access to all of our services.
So be sure to celebrate this birthday of the Declaration of Independence, just do it safely.