Inequality in Southborough (Updated)

Above: Southborough is known as a privileged town with plenty of millionaires. It’s easy to overlook those in town who are quietly struggling. (Left-top image of fake million dollar bill posted to Flickr by Simon Davison, Left-bottom image from Blog Action Day Facebook page,  Right image from Southborough Food Pantry Facebook page.)

I’m taking part in Blog Action Day, an initiative to raise awareness on global issues. This year, the issue is Inequality. Since this blog is all about Southborough, I’m focusing on our town.

Southborough has an image as a privileged town. And of course we do have our share of very privileged families.

But I’m not writing today to browbeat our millionaires. I’m writing to everyone who isn’t “underprivileged”.

I don’t have real statistics on how many of our residents are in need, but they are out there.

We’re fortunate enough as a town, that we don’t see homeless living on our streets or people holding signs asking for money.*

Instead, we have families struggling privately. And we have elderly residents struggling to make ends meet in order to stay in the community where they raised their families.

The people who need help are often quiet. Which is why the organizations who strive to help them can’t be.

Two of the groups that are working to help them are the Southborough Food Pantry and Friends of the Southborough Youth Commission (the charity dedicated to supporting Southborough Youth and Family Services).

The pantry has families and residents that regularly depend on them all year. Their biggest collection drive of the year is Scouting for Food on November 8th. So be on the lookout for details.

And last year SYC’s Holiday Gift Drive helped families with 77 children celebrate the winter holidays. The contributions weren’t just used for gifts. They helped fund families’ food, gas, oil, and other necessities.

You can plan on helping out with that when the time comes. Or you can jump the gun and make a direct donation to Friends of SYC to help with their non-profit work.

As for concerns about how our government should handle issues related to inequality, you can make a difference there, too. Be sure to vote in the state election on November 4th.

(Personally, I think of low voter turnout as a sign to politicians that we don’t care what they do.)

As for what I’m doing. . .

The blog already has easy access through the pull down menus to find charitable events and profiles of community organizations.

Now, I’m also adding a category under news for “Charity/Making a difference“. I’ll be using it going forward to provide easy access to stories on charities and charitable efforts in town that don’t qualify as events.

Of course, if you have a fundraiser you want to share with readers, be sure to email mysouthborough@gmail.com. Or you can always post info under the latest open thread.

*Before someone posts a snarky comment – bake sales at the Transfer Station don’t count as “signs asking for money”!

Updated (10/17/14 11:55 am): I corrected my mention above of direct donation to SYC. I had meant to write Friends of SYC. That is the non-profit group the link leads to.

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Louise Barron
8 years ago

Beth Do you have a last name. You are not browbeating millionaires. Not at this moment. You want their money right now. “Millionaires”, you know those folks. They’re the bad people who make colleges available to those who can’t afford them. Can you say scholarship, Beth. Those silly people who contribute “millions” to build buildings in universities so children can learn and end up thinking the government owes them. “Millionaires”, who donate so much money to hospitals and research that the results of their philanthropy actually saves lives and cures diseases. Do you disapprove of Bill Gates also. He and his wife just donated $50 million to fight Ebola.
No good???? Beth, we’re all doing what we can. Thank a millionaire.

downtown resident
8 years ago
Reply to  Louise Barron

I don’t understand the above comment. There is no indication of disapproval of anyone by the writer. It’s a simple pea to please remember those right in your own town who are in need. The article has no mention of anyone being bad or not doing enough.

name with held
8 years ago

Interesting that you bring this topic up today Beth. My wife and I were talking last night and she mentioned visiting I think it was the Rec Center (another government hand out) and two people were coming in for food pantry and both had cigarettes hanging from their mouths (are they $10 a pack now, pack a day, $120 per week). Honestly, I don’t think anyone in our country now needs a hand out for any reason. 45% of America is on some sort of hand out (not SSI which people contributed to and not military). There are literally 25% of America not working – stopped or not made to work. Yes unemployment numbers which the government plays games with just like inflation, is only 8% but it does not have those that came off unemployment and who are now on permanent SSI and disability money. With cars, cable, cell phones, tv’s there are no poor. I am not in the upper class that is mentioned but I am not in the lower group you mentioned. I am in the middle and doing my budget last night my costs are up again over six months ago 15%. It is not the wealthy or the lower group but we in the middle who have two people working and making $100-200K a year who are being decimated. And BTW, we believe in tithing ($14-20K per year) and give 10% before taxes to help many less fortunate around the world instead of having a vaca home on the cape. But that is our choice, and it is a biblical world view. And that is truly what is lacking in America and around the world today. Thanks for the article, it was thought provoking and had me thinking.

Held With Name
8 years ago
Reply to  name with held

I’m not going to bother with most of this post, but if you think that, in this country, “there are no poor,” you need to get out more.

I also have to correct you on one point. $10 per day is definitely not $120 per week; it is $70 per week. But thank you, I’m sure the greedy plebeians of Southborough appreciated your budget advice.

Donna McDaniel
8 years ago

Please note that the Southborough Youth Commission is a town committee with members appointed by Selectmen, not a non-profit. They do raise money and accept donations for some of the programs. I suggest reading the Commission’s report in the Annual Town Report (on town website) to see who they serve and some of the things they do and, yes, the programs they offer to children who are not among the many more fortunate in this town.

As for Southborough people in general, it’s too bad we can’t have a conversation in this community without people taking offense and then insulting others whose circum-stances we do not really know.

I suggest that the people with lower means tend to be senior citizens who have lived here many years, don’t want to leave, or can’t afford to move to the Cape or South or one of the many retirement communities sprouting up all over. There are people who find it increasingly financially difficult to live in the town where they have spent decades–70-80 +. å few are among those in Colonial Gardens, the state-subsidized housing for low income elderly, housing initiated by the town meeting in the 1970s. At times residents there include parents of Southborough residents who, shall we say, have found ways to assure their parents have the lower income required. The Senior Tax Write-Off program ($1,000 off the property tax bill for 125 hours of work for the town, preference to those with incomes below $45,000) is a benefit that helps both the town and a number of us (I’m one). The Assessors office has information on other programs that can help with real estate taxes for those in need in a temporary emergency or other difficult financial situation.
Finally.. the Senior Center has very helpful offerings like the free flu shots (thanks to Bd. of Health, too), osteoporosis exams, free movies, art classes and many offerings, along with inexpensive lunches (there’s “Meals of Wheels”) and a volunteer consultant who helps people sort out their health insurance options. And much more.

Donna McDaniel
8 years ago

Question: Someone wrote to the blog mentioning he/she was near the “Rec Center.” I haven’t heard of anything by that name or with that purpose in town but don’t know how it could be near the Food Pantry which is in a church parish hall next to the Town House. Only other building is the former 1-room schoolhouse now home to the Southborough Historical Society, definitely none of these fitting the description of “Rec Center.” I hope that those who complain are sure of their facts before making some generalizations about the people they see.

Beth D
8 years ago
Reply to  Donna McDaniel

I wondered about that too. Could the writer have meant the Recreation Department, located on Highland Street, that offers recreational programs to town residents for a fee? Or maybe he meant the Senior Center, located on rt. 85 across from Woodland School, which offers a place for seniors to get out and socialize?

Beth D
8 years ago
Reply to  Beth D

*Woodward
lol
#stupidautocorrect

Donna McDaniel
8 years ago

Southborough is, by the way, the wealthiest town in Worcester County. The county itself is 9th in the state. The next two may be surprising too… Bolton is 2nd and then comes Boylston. Our two “boro” neighbors–Westboro and Northboro (Marlboro is in Middlesex County, as is Hopkinton)–are much farther down in our county; Bolton and Boylston are the closest to us income-wise.
The figures for Southborough: Per capita income: $57,426; median household income: $142,520; median family income, $161,419; Our population is 9,671; our number of households: 3,285. I would estimate that those last three figures are about twice as much as they were before our growth surge beginning in the 1970s.
The point? Southborough is a VERY affluent town so our community should be aware l that some people in Southborough don’t come anywhere close to that median (not average, notice, but median — so half are above those income numbers and half are below. That’s not a judgment about them but a note that perfectly hard-working people can be struggling these days and, as we know, some have lost jobs and have great difficulty finding work.

Beth D
8 years ago
Reply to  Donna McDaniel

I have to comment here too. I have felt for sometime now that athough those who have been lucky enough to retain their jobs during this economic downturn are feeling the pinch of rising costs, they really don’t identify with those who have been through the layoff mill. Many people have been forced to hunt down jobs, apply for jobs that hundreds of others are also applying for, or taken jobs below their qualifications only to be laid off again. People can be employed full time and still fall below the proverty line. I have lived in Southborough for a long time, I have never met anyone in this town who doesn’t work simply because they don’t want to. There are many reasons why families can find themselves in difficult situations. Compassion and friendliness goes a long way.

Anne Jones
8 years ago
Reply to  Beth D

Beth, thank you for voicing the truth. There are many hard-working people out there who are having difficult times and could use help. My heart goes out to those people, and to you for pointing out the realities of their lives.

Beth D
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne Jones

Thank you Anne.

name with held
8 years ago

Donna, I am absolutely certain you are a really nice person with a big heart that means well. However, there has always been this group that needed help. Now we have problems with the lower middle, big problems. You are a strong liberal Democratic supporter and have been for the 22+ years I have lived in this town (and my first house was $129K). Just think of what your people have done to our country in the last 5 years. It even makes the libs pine for Bush who they bashed incessantly for 8 years and continued to blame him well into this present idiots presidency. I am paying now twice as much for health care, can’t get xrays or labs, and the quality of service and the taxes on those services are becoming insurmountable and many are giving up. Not becasue of Bush but becasue nice people like you keep pounding at the so called wealthy – me. Stop it please. If you don’t work hard, you don’t get more eduction, you don’t get up in the morning, you don’t stay employable and you don’t earn good money (if you want to have a job that does not earn good money that is your choice, no one is going to pay $5 for a Macdonalds hamburger). Simply, I made the right choice, worked hard, got re-educated and at 57 I am still making a good living. BUT, I had to really grind down down and work hard and NO one gave the light skin colored male anything. You and the libs in this country, some well meaning, are absolutely killing traditional America and sadly some are leading and cheering that charge with the constant attack on the wealth others have EARNED.

downtown resident
8 years ago
Reply to  name with held

Sir, the article is not an unusual one at this time of the year. It is not a personal attack on you. Nor is it an invitation for you to make public personal attacks on anyone else. Please stop.

Frank Crowell
8 years ago

Did not know writing in a blog calling a person a “strong liberal Democrat supporter” can be thought of as a “public personal attack.” Of course if I were a strong liberal Democrat supporter I would be offended or on the deffensive if a poster were to point out one of the multitude of failures at the state and federal level of liberal Democrat policies.

Southville
8 years ago
Reply to  Frank Crowell

Well, he didn’t just call her a “strong liberal Democratic supporter”. He said “think of what your people have done to our country” and “you and the libs… are absolutely killing traditional America.”

There is certainly room for debate, but you have to admit the post was mean spirited, especially since it was responding to someone who is just trying to point out that there are people in our community who can use a helping hand, and that as a well off town, we’re well positioned to offer some of that help.

Frank Crowell
8 years ago
Reply to  Southville

Not sure a blog post that starts off with “I am absolutely certain you are a really nice person with a big heart ” can be called mean spirited but I can understand your point. I interpreted the post differently. “name with held” is simply voicing his or her utter frustration with the policies implemented over the past five years that have produced nothing in any type of benefit to most taxpayers or their families while taking more money out of their pockets.

What is even more infuriating is that the liberal/progressive crowd (not all) will not entertain any relevant discussion on those failures without breaking out in their own hate speech or their own facts.

So you can mark me down as sympathetic to all frustrated taxpayers nation wide and come November I will again not vote for one Democratic, not that it will matter much in this state.

Al Hamilton
8 years ago
Reply to  Southville

Southville

Yes, Name With Held said those things. They are sincerely held political beliefs that challenge the political orthodoxy of this Commonwealth.

What was the response? Downtown basically told Name With Held to shut up.

Yes, Ms. McDaniel was pointing out that that we like all communities have families that struggle to make ends meet. The big question is what, if anything we should collectively do about it. Not everyone believes that the best answer is more government and higher taxes.

Here is a suggestion: The property tax is a regressive tax. The wealthy devote a smaller percentage of their income to shelter that the less well off. Next time you go to Town Meeting, think about the seniors and less well off families before voting in favor of the next budget item. The relentless increases in the regressive taxes levied by our Town will only be curtailed if people say no.

Al Hamilton
8 years ago

Downtown

Name With Held did not say anything bad about Ms McDaniel, who is a nice person, he/she attacked what he/she believes are Ms. McDaniels underlying beliefs about the public policy matters.

Ms. McDaniel has been a consistent advocate of debate. She regularly reminds Town Meeting not to just rubber stamp things but to actually discuss them. Name With Held is doing just that. You may not like his/her take of the “nanny state” or “class warfare” but it is a legitimate position and an important issue.

You may not like the posters position but trying to silence him/her is actually disrespectful to Ms. McDaniel’s regular admonition that we deliberate on matters of public policy. Beyond that I am quite certain she is more than capable of defending herself.

Brian
8 years ago
Reply to  name with held

I am so confused by this thread. I am not sure how anything that Donna McDaniel said can be interpreted as controversial and worthy of the response by “Name With Held”. This is what I am hearing: Donna McDaniel mentioned nothing about politics, but said that we should be aware that there are less-fortunate people than some others within town. The direct reply talks about what things in this country that they blame on democratic policies (which apparently Ms. McDaniel may or may not support), talks about Bush, and finally on to $5 hamburgers. If this isn’t a “personal attack”, then it is at the very least misplaced as being in direct response to her post.

Hopefully this clears up why some people choose not post with their full name – any post you make is subject to someone telling you why your political affiliations are ruining their (apparently very well-off) life, even though that is completely irrelevant to anything you said in your post. I guess Name With Held doesn’t need to be told why people withhold their names though.

On the lower end
8 years ago

This conversation reinforces how clueless some people are about the real struggles facing families out there, and it also reinforces how difficult it is to live among those who have in this town and be on the lower end of the income but not low enough to qualify for government “hand-outs”–how derogatory is that term! We are self- employed. Our monthly health insurance payment is close to our mortgage payment. Yes, we probably had too many kids, but siblings last a lifetime. I don’t want your house at the Cape. I prefer my children, but childcare is not cheap when you have more than one or two children. And furthermore, I wouldn’t even think about looking for handouts in this town. Why? Because half of our friends, serve on the boards of the various organizations so there’s no option for confidentiality. So, we struggle privately and remain quiet. And for the record, we don’t smoke. We don’t have time to. We are too busy looking after our kids and trying to put food on the table!

Dean Dairy
8 years ago

The issue isn’t whether some people earn more money than other people — so-called “income inequality”. One person’s gain isn’t necessarily another’s loss, in the private economy at least.

The problem has been that incomes at the low end have been stagnant and fewer new opportunities for income advancement are being created. And people with fixed incomes, like seniors, are most affected by taxes and price inflation.

That’s what matters to people on the low end of the income scale, not how much somebody else makes.

Yet, it explains why the very members of the political class most responsible for the current economic malaise seek to exploit the effect-rather-than-cause issue of “income inequality” for political gain.

It’s a divisive and insidious political strategy meant to ensure their continued power while economic conditions are made even worse by the very policies they pursue in an endless cycle of demagoguery.

It does seem, however, that people even in this state are starting to wake up to the fact.

Resident
8 years ago
Reply to  Dean Dairy

Exactly Dean. And let’s not forget who created the enormous economic and military (which is also economic by the way) disasters that the present administration inherited and has been trying to dig us out of for the past 6 years. And with no help whatsoever from a Republican Congress = the very people who landed us in this huge puddle of $hI+ – MUD!

Dean Dairy
8 years ago
Reply to  Resident

Resident, a few facts:

Democrats won control over both houses of congress in 2006, before the recession.

Historically, the deeper the recession, the faster the recovery — except this one.

In 2010, Vice President Biden called Iraq “one of the great achievements of this administration.”

Obama in 2011: “We’re Leaving Behind A Stable And Self-Reliant Iraq”.

You know, when you’re in a deeper hole after six years, maybe the Obama administration should stop, as you say, “digging”?

Resident
8 years ago
Reply to  Dean Dairy

Sorry Dean, this mess is of the Republican’s making and the only thing that they have been doing for 6 years is working as hard as they can to make sure that NONE of this country’s problems get solved on the “other guy’s” watch.

Today the stock market is booming, gas prices are down, the unemployment rate is at the lowest it’s been since September of 2008, the deficit is dropping like a stone and never was an economic problem to begin with. The recovery is certainly happening and would have happened at a much greater speed if the “shut down the government,” “strip stimulus spending,” “keep tax cuts and loopholes for the wealthy” Republicans had just gotten out of the way of people who really care about this country and the middle and lower classes.

I don’t give a fig what anyone said or is saying about Iraq. Were it not for Bush and Cheney, we would never have been there in the first place. We would not have the deficit that we have now due to Military spending by Republican’s who couldn’t have cared less about a U.S. deficit in 2003 and we would not have an entire generation of veterans to whom we (the taxpayers) are obligated to give lifelong care. Care, by the way that the Republicans have voted against time after time and completely obliterated for the duration of their government shutdown. Sixteen days is a very long time to go without a meal, not to mention the revenue that was lost by the US government during that fiasco.

But wait, I’m presenting facts. Republicans have never met a fact that they won’t call a lie to keep the corporate 1% rolling in dough by convincing former Reagan worshipers that their party is still looking out for them. Oh and, of course, that president Obama is the nazi, muslim, socialist anti-Christ

Frank Crowell
8 years ago
Reply to  Resident

What favor is the Kool-Aid served at Democrat political meetings? Must be a fan favorite.

Just keep blaming Bush, ignoring all problems/scandals, trillions of dollars spent for nothing, the incompetence at the state and federal level and we will all get what we deserve. A perfect storm where more will have to be spent, more constitutional rights violated and your grand children wondering what you did.

Kathy Cook
8 years ago

I have been involved with the Friends of the Southborough Youth Commission, Inc. since its formation. It is a 501(c)(3) charitable entity so any contributions made to it are deductible for federal income tax purposes.

I have learned a lot about the needs of Southborough residents during my tenure as Treasurer. When I first became involved I had no idea of how many families needed help financially. I was quickly educated. There are many families in Southborough who do need extra financial help through no fault of their own. Many of their stories are heartbreaking. And most involve families with children. Even in cases where the parents contributed to some of their family’s financial problems their children should not be punished.

In addition to the Friends group that I am involved in, Southborough also has a well run food bank at the Pilgrim Church. The food bank is also a 501(c)(3) so donations there are also tax deductible. The food bank provided about 70 book bags for Southborough children last year.

So please don’t paint those in Southborough who need extra financial help with a broad brush as “name with held” has done. If you don’t want to help these families that is your choice. But if you do these two groups know how to help and spend every penny they receive appropriately. Friends does not receive many donations and therefore can only meet a few of the emergency needs of Southborough residents.

Louise Barron
8 years ago

Folks we all know that many people struggle. You all wanted change. You got it. We are constantly being bombarded by solicitors to donate money. I do my share. I also have a limit. A country with exorbitant welfare will never be strong and self reliant. Now I’m already paying for all those who can work and don’t and working 14 hours a day. When do I get a break. I guess when I’m dead. Forget about it.

Just Curious
8 years ago

First things first – THANK YOU Beth!
You have raised a tremendously important issue.

Second – THANK YOU to Kathy Cook for the volunteer work you do for the Friends of Southborough Family Services. Could you tell us where we can send a check to this great organization?

Second, it is helpful to me to read some of these comments, especially those from Mrs. Barron. Over the many years I have attended Town Meeting, I cannot recall a single time I ever agreed with one issue she or Mr. Barron raised :) Although I disagree with her comments Mrs. Barrron has every right in the world to suggest that others not donate more to less fortunate people in Southborough.

As for me, after reading these comments, I plan to write a check to the Friends of Southborough Youth and Family Services and I will buy extra food at the grocery store this week and donate it to the food bank. My wife and I have decided to skip our usual Saturday night dinner and donate that money to the Friends organization. It is a small thing but imagine how much good we could accomplish if we all made one such sacrifice once a month!

Finally, I read a terrific quote the other day that may be applicable here:

“Never argue with a fool. From a distance, onlookers may not be able to tell you apart,”
Mark Twain

And now I say goodnight to all the kind people in Southborough.

Resident
8 years ago
Reply to  Just Curious

Nicely said Just Curious. I too would like to know where I can donate to Southborough Youth & Family Services. And for those who are at their charitable financial limit, I bet giving a little bit of time would be even more helpful and yield much greater personal satisfaction.

You know, I don’t frequent Starbucks all that often, but when I am there to meet an associate or a friend, I look at the line snaking to the door and often wonder how many of those people who are spending $5 a day or more on coffee also spend a great deal of their time claiming that they just can’t do any more for those less fortunate. I am here to tell you, if you are in that line, YOU CAN.

“Never argue with a fool. From a distance, onlookers may not be able to tell you apart,”
Mark Twain

Thank you for that quote. It has inspired me to stop posting my opinions on this subject. Like Congress, it is just a huge waste of time.

Beth D
8 years ago
Reply to  Resident

Southborough Youth and Family is hosting a Halloween Party for kids 12 and under Friday, Oct. 24, 7-8:30 at the Finn School. The cost is $5 per person, max $15 per family. There will be refreshments, games, photo booth and raffles.
Come on by!

downtown resident
8 years ago

If I have hurt Mr. Name withheld’s feelings, then I sincerely apologize.
“Please stop” is a polite request that he can choose to abide or not.
“Shut up” is a derogatory command, which is language that I do not use.
When I said “anyone else,” I meant any.one.else. Not someone in particular.
There’s something about rising costs and solicitations, they are non-discriminate. That is, it happens to all of us, not just those in higher tax brackets. If you have reached you’re limit for donations to charitable causes, then you should refrain from going over budget. Being responsible with your money is important. If you have favorite charitable causes outside of your home town, then stick to them. What you do with your own money is up to you. But please, do not undermine the good works of Sothborough Youth and Family Services or The Food Pantry. The people who work at these places (employee or volunteer) work hard to help people right here in our town, your neighbors. It is important work and should be respected. How can someone muster up the strength to go on if hunger is constantly knocking? How can someone land a good job if they have only shabby clothes to wear at an interview?
If you do happen to have a few extra bucks, please consider donating locally.

Kathy Cook
8 years ago

I am writing to clarify some incorrect facts in recent postings relating to Beth’s original posting on issues faced by local residents who are facing serious economic issues.

The town department which provides services to families in Southborough (i.e. our social service department) is called Youth and Family Services. It is run by the very capable Laurie Sugarman-Whittier.

Friends of the Southborough Youth Commission, Inc. is the town department’s “friend” and was formed several years ago to support the Town department by providing funds and services that were outside the scope of the Town’s budget and mandate. Friends is a public charity. Donations can be mailed to Friends at 17 Common Street, Southborough, MA. 01772. Checks should be made payable to: Friends of the Southborough Youth Commission, Inc.

There are also other “Friends” organizations in town that support other town departments including the senior center, the school system, the library and the recreation department. ( I hope I haven’t missed any others). So if the work of those departments is your passion, please consider contributing your time and/or money to any of those Friends also.

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