Twelve months of furloughs and losing nearly thirty percent of their staff over the last three years hasn’t dampened the spirits or generosity of the employees at the Oklahoma State Senate who donated thousands of dollars to various state charities including the Oklahoma Regional Food Bank this month.
Each fall, Senate staff, which consists of around 100 full-time employees, chooses a state charity to support in correlation with the United Way’s Annual State Charitable Campaign. On Monday, the staff gathered for their annual Halloween Chili Cook-off luncheon where they learned they were able to raise $1,500 for the Food Bank, which will help the organization provide 7,500 meals around the state.
Many staffers also contributed to the State Charitable Campaign (SCC), which is an annual, unified fundraising effort that provides state employees with the opportunity to make donations to their favorite charitable organizations through the convenience of payroll deduction or one-time gifts. Together Senate employees contributed just under $3,700 to the SCC.
“We have a tremendous staff in the Senate. Not only are they some of the most knowledgeable and hard working employees in state government, they’re also some of the most generous,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “Each year, regardless of the ups and downs of the economy, our employees open their hearts and checkbooks to local charities like the Regional Food Bank. I’m proud to be able to work with this amazing group of people.”
Staffers chose to focus their efforts on the Food Bank given the growing problem of hunger in Oklahoma. According to the State Department of Human Services, Oklahoma ranks as the fifth hungriest state in the nation. Each day, there are over 600,000 individuals who do not know where they will get their next meal.
The number of Oklahoma families applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, has steadily increased in recent years to its highest numbers in state history. Since March, the number of recipients has climbed from nearly 607,400 to just over 625,000.
In Fiscal Year 2011, over 880,000 Oklahomans received some kind of food assistance – an increase of nearly 248,000 people since FY’08. Given that the state’s population is just under 3.7 million, nearly one-fourth of the state’s citizens received some kind of nutritional assistance in the last year.
Unfortunately, for many of these families the assistance they receive is not enough to get them through the month so they depend on local churches and nonprofit organizations like the Food Bank to put food on their tables.