Despite the fact Christmas is just around the corner, and we are on the cusp of the New Year, and while the tendency is to celebrate, we cannot avoid certain realities. Those realities take no break for a holiday.
The reality that jumps out at us this week is the November unemployment report for Archuleta County. While there is some evidence the national economy is improving slowly, that trend was not reflected in Pagosa Country in November. Our unemployment rate moved 1.4 percent … up. The rate in November stood at 10.5 percent — likely the highest here since 1986.
Bottom line: There is a significant number of our neighbors who are in a bad way. Life for them is difficult, at best. Work is hard to find, the future is uncertain, often housing is in jeopardy, and the anxiety the condition produces is persistent and corrosive. It weighs heavy not only on the checkbook, but on families and psyches as well.
Another bottom line, though: In rugged times, there is a cushion in a community like ours. And there is good reason to be hopeful.
First, things will change; the situation will get better. Exactly when, no one can say, but it will happen. The local economy will rebound, though it will not be the same as it was prior to the recession. That is a good thing: the economic bubble that burst here was predicated on a diseased system that lived nationally and took root locally. Too much of our seemingly grand fortune rested on a foundation that, as it turned out, was built on sand, not bedrock. When the economy regains significant strength, we will hopefully have the wisdom to avoid the traps that snared us in the past, the insight needed to place our bets on what endures rather than on what might provide the biggest, quickest profits, absent good sense. The new local economy might not bear the muscle it once did, but if we are careful, it will be more realistic, without the performance enhancing drugs it imbibed in the past, tailored to what this community truly is and can provide.
Second, we can be buoyed by the fact our community continues to work hard to take care of its own. This holiday period provides us with more examples of the depth of concern and generosity Pagosans extend to one another.
The number of philanthropic and charitable activities occurring attendant to this holiday are many and the results of those activities will, no doubt, make the holidays more enjoyable for quite a few of our neighbors.
The local food banks continue to distribute food to those in need and a number of groups have provided extra input to these food banks the last few months— food drives have taken place and residents have been generous with their donations. Events such as Empty Bowls have raised money to be donated to local churches running food bank programs, local Scouts and utility companies pitched in. Several hundred families have benefited from the efforts of these and other groups.
The Salvation Army played a major role in collecting and distributing food specifically for the holidays, along with gifts for the children. The Salvation Army project distributed 225 boxes to serve as many as 750 people. Local Realtors (with 40 new bikes given out Wednesday) and the Rotary Club (400 board games for food boxes) have done their part, as have many other church and civic groups, and individuals.
So, this holiday, in the face of harsh realities, there are reasons to be of good cheer. Times may be tough, but, when all is said and done, this is a great and positive place in which to live.
A wonderful place in which to begin a new, and better year.