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Guest column/Your kindness in September will last a decade

In my 13 years as the president and CEO of the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, I have repeatedly witnessed the unyielding kindness of the people of Appalachian Ohio. We care deeply about others, and when asked to help, we step forward. Amid the challenges we face today, it is easy to feel powerless. However, there is one simple way we can all make a difference now, and that’s by completing the 2020 Census.

The Census will determine federal funding, elected representation and how resources are allocated to our communities for the next 10 years. And right now, all but four of Appalachian Ohio’s 32 counties are lagging behind Ohio’s response rate – some by just a hair and others, such as Harrison, Morgan, Vinton and Pike counties, by more than 20 percentage points. For information on your county’s response rate, visit 2020census.gov/response-rates.

How do we make the Census a priority? Given the generosity of our region, I suggest we think of it as an act of kindness. Imagine the results of completing the Census: Your response will help the teachers in your local school district; the family on your local Head Start waiting list; and the child down the road who, because the library has loaned all of its remote hotspots, cannot complete schoolwork at home. Your completion of the Census won’t just help them today — it will help them for the next 10 years.

Completing the Census is especially important to Appalachian Ohio now. Prior to the global pandemic, our region’s citizens accessed 90 percent less philanthropic assets than the rest of Ohio (this is something the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio works every day to solve, and you can read more at appalachianohio.org. Now, the global pandemic is placing enormous strain on our schools, social service agencies, and local governments.

Within every challenge, there are opportunities. This is as true with COVID-19 as it is with any other challenge. And, sometimes, for things to get better, they have to get worse first. My hope is that we will use this unprecedented time such that history will show it was the beginning of the long-awaited transformations we’ve envisioned for Appalachian Ohio. To make this hope a reality, we need intention and action. And, we certainly need to marshal every single resource and act of kindness we can. One way to help is by ensuring a complete count for our region. If you have not already done so, please complete the 2020 Census.

Completing the Census is easy and takes less than 10 minutes. You can complete the Census online at my2020census.gov or by calling (844) 330-2020. If you still have the Census form your household received in the spring, you can mail the completed questionnaire to U.S. Census Bureau, National Processing Center, 1201 E 10th Street, Jeffersonville, IN 47132.

If you have already completed the Census, please consider encouraging your neighbors to make sure they are counted. We have until Sept. 30 to make it count for Appalachian Ohio. Thank you.

(Brook is president and CEO of the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio.)

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