Editors note: This story was written by Forsyth Central High School journalism students in partnership with the Forsyth County News.
By Brianna Noto, McKenzie See-Holbrook and Logan Wallace
Forsyth County is known as one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. Its schools are regularly ranked among the best in the state, new stores and shopping centers are being built almost monthly and its population continues to increase.
But community leaders feel the poverty that exists in Forsyth County is overlooked.
“Any county can only keep getting better by looking at ourselves inwardly as honestly as we can,” District 4 Commissioner Cindy Mills said. “People tend to focus on so much wealth [in Forsyth County] and they forget that we have poverty in the county.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the national poverty rate is 12.3 percent, our state poverty rate is 14.9 percent and our county’s poverty rate is 6.5 percent. Forsyth County’s current population is 227,967, so that’s about 13,678 people in poverty within a 247-square-mile radius. In addition, about 15.4 percent of Forsyth County’s students currently receive free or reduced lunch.
Forsyth County has plenty of charities working to help people that live under the poverty line. For example, Jesse’s House is a shelter for at-risk girls ages 7-17; Meals on Wheels provides meals for the elderly and people who do not have the means to provide food; No Longer Bound helps people dealing with addiction; Family Haven shelters victims of domestic violence, and Family Promise shelters the homeless, and helps low-income families to prevent homelessness. No Longer Bound has a thrift store to support their cause. Each charity has opportunities to volunteer or donate that directly benefits residents of our community.
However, many of Forsyth County’s nonprofit organizations that help those in need have recently experienced a dip in giving from area residents.
“United Way didn’t meet their goal last year for the first time in forever. With all of the wealth in the county, you would think that organizations such as United Way would be off the hook with money and support,” Mills said. “The number of people in need is growing, but the number of people giving is not.”
Mills said the county’s nonprofit organizations need an engaged community to try to help make a difference in the lives of those in need.
“There has to be a voice crying for [people in poverty]. People in poverty feel like no one cares, so no one ever screams for them,” Mills said. “There usually isn’t an advocate for them, there isn’t a voice crying for them.”