If you are like me, your pocketbook is lined a little thinner this year. The economy has taken a toll on all of us. Some local residents have probably decided to try to spend less and save more, and others are just trying to stretch their dollars as far as they can go to meet their family's needs. It is a fact that the dollar can only be stretched so far and there are times when people need a little help. Thankfully, we live in a community that recognizes that need and offers programs and activities to assist struggling families and those who just want to spend more wisely. This week, I would like to remind our readers about some of the opportunities available in our community.
* Food pantries: Residents who are struggling to put food on their tables can find assistance at community pantries located at the Cassville United Methodist Church, the All Faith United Methodist Church in Eagle Rock and the Central Community United Methodist Church in Shell Knob. All locations offer a pantry for emergency assistance and the opportunity to apply for federal commodities, which provide residents with groceries each month. A life skills class is offered in conjuction with the distribution of commodities in Cassville. The Cassville UMC can be contacted at 847-2328.
* Energy Crisis Intervention Program: OACAC offers assistance for community members struggling to pay costs associated with air conditioning their homes. The program can help residents pay their electric bills keeping their homes cool during the summer. For more information, call OACAC's Springfield office at 417-864-3460.
* Garden Sass Farmers' Market: Located on Mineral Springs Road in the Cassville City Park, the market offers an assortment of fresh produce, crafts and other items each Tuesday and Friday morning. Community members can purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables at a low cost and know that they are supporting their fellow Barry Countians.
* School Readiness Fair: Each year, the Barry County OACAC Neighborhood Center organizes a back-to-school fair, which provides kids in need with most of the school supplies they will use during the upcoming school year. This year's fair will be held at the Crowder College Cassville Campus Community Center on Aug. 4. The Neighborhood Center can be contacted at 847-2140.
* Free movie days: When families struggle with paying electric bills, purchasing groceries and preparing their children for school, the last thing they think about is entertainment, but we all need and deserve an opportunity to escape from our everyday struggles. Each week, the Cassville Branch Library shows a free movie for families. All community members are invited to attend and enjoy a film at no charge.
* Free swim day: The Cassville Aquatic Center will offer its final free swim day of 2011 on Monday, Aug. 1. What a perfect way to celebrate the last few weeks of summer before the kids return to school. Community members will have the opportunity to swim at no cost from 1 to 6 p.m.
I hope all families in need will take advantage of these programs and opportunities. On the other hand, if you have a little extra to give this year, consider purchasing a few extra groceries and dropping them off at a community food pantry, making a donation to a local library or the upcoming school fair or visiting the local farmers' market. Supporting local programs and activities can make a huge difference for families in our community.