I've known Joe for eight years; he works for one of my customers as a purchasing agent. With business in a sharp decline this year, his company decided to cut everyone's hours rather than lay people off. Since January, Joe has been working a four day week and collecting 80 percent of his normal pay.

As the weeks went by, I could see the worry lines in Joe's face. He's got three young children at home, and a mortgage to pay that he's never been late on or missed a payment. Until now. Joe told me he had to call the bank that holds the mortgage and tell them he was sending as much as he could.

Of course, Joe has other bills too: for food, for gas for their two cars, for heating oil, for insurance, and for medical expenses. Every week, Joe and his wife go through the bills and decide which ones they can pay and which ones will have to wait. They've fallen behind on their credit card accounts too.

Joe's church runs a food pantry for people in need. In prior years, Joe and his wife donated food to this pantry. Now, Joe feels too embarrassed to go there and ask for help, but soon he may not have a choice. He tells me this because he knows I work for the Interfaith Nutrition Network (INN), which maintains 19 soup kitchens/food pantries across Nassau and Suffolk counties. It pains Joe to admit that he needs help taking care of his family. But he knows I will understand.

There are a thousand stories on Long Island just like Joe's. People who never struggled before, but are desperately holding on, hoping that better times are coming. For more than 25 years, the INN has been helping families just like Joe's, with food, shelter, and support services.

Even in these times of increased need, the INN turns no one away that needs help. To keep doing this, the INN needs our help. Every $25 the INN receives means hot meals for 10 hungry Long Islanders. It means shelter for families who have been evicted and have nowhere to turn. It means job counseling and referrals to mental health programs and addiction counseling. Your donation, in whatever amount is comfortable for you, makes a real difference.

Please join me in supporting the INN by writing a check to: The Interfaith Nutrition Network. Donations may be mailed to: Dave Golbert, 7 Lee Court West, Great Neck, NY 11024. To donate food, clothing, or personal care items, call 917-418-2451 or email: davegolbert@yahoo.com to learn about volunteering.

Joe, my friend, we're here for you.

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