We're all familiar with a portion of John Donne's famous quote: "No man is an island."
You can extrapolate all sorts of meaning from that phrase. No community, for example, is an island, either.
Sure, Vermillion constantly works to focus on its own internal issues that pretty much are directed towards the people who live within its city limits. Vermillion, for example, needed a new city hall for years. It's was finally completed about a year ago, and it's proven to be so functional, it's hard to remember now how we got by without it.
Vermilliion also spearheaded a movement last year that only seems to be growing in importance.
It's been a year since the Vermillion Now! capital campaign exceeded its goal of securing more than $1.5 million in pledges and donations.
Last year, a committee made up of approximately 20 people settled on several main goals for the capital campaign, including new business recruitment and expansion, marketing, workforce development and entrepreneurial development.
The capital campaign was launched in January 2009 after an analysis of the Vermillion community by the Vermillion Chamber of Commerce and Development Company (VCDC) board demonstrated that the community needed funding to stimulate further economic development. ??
The VCDC's study uncovered some disturbing trends. In comparison to a number of other communities, such as Watertown, Madison, Brookings and Yankton, the study revealed that Vermillion has much lower wages. Vermillion also has significantly higher poverty rates — somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 percent higher.
It appears that Vermillion's foresight in launching Vermillion Now! Has given our community a jump toward solving what appears to be a growing problem not just in our community "island," but also across our state.
According to a news report this week, the number of South Dakota children living in poverty has risen dramatically, a trend that began before the recession and shows no sign of slowing anytime soon.
About 38 percent of children in South Dakota are living in poverty, up sharply from 14 percent in 2001, according to new statistics released Tuesday.
The economic recession also is hitting South Dakota children at a worse rate than the national average, according to a national annual survey that ranks the overall well-being of children in all 50 states.
Based on 10 criteria, the Kids Count Data Book, released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, ranked South Dakota 26, dropping 15 pegs since 2001. The decline is the biggest drop by any state over that period.
Neither the governor's office, Department of Health Secretary Doneen Hollingsworth nor Department of Social Services Secretary Deb Bowman would comment on South Dakota's plummeting rank.
"We haven't had time to review the numbers," Hollingsworth said.
We'll be the first to admit that we don't have all the answers to this complex problem. We certainly aren't experts in sociology or economics or statistics.
We can only make an assumption – with a fair bit of confidence – that one of the major reasons for growing childhood poverty in South Dakota is a trend in unemployment or underemployment in both two-parent and single-parent households.
In other words, we assume, there is a growing number of families in South Dakota who likely scrape to make ends meet week after week.
In this scenario, everyone suffers. Sadly, even children.
One of the goals of Vermillion Now! is a "branding" of our community, to promote it attractive qualities, which in turn will make our community more appealing to businesses. Those businesses in turn, provide employment, meaning more dollars being taken home by local households, which hopefully can help Vermillion break free of its poverty problem.
It's not an easy solution. We know it will take a lot of effort and perseverance for Vermillion Now! to meet its goals.
But, it appears, our community has plenty of company. South Dakota, it appears, must also deal with this problem. We're hopeful that as state leaders and communities like ours focus on solutions, there will eventually be benefits for everyone.
Especially, our children.
Laura Beaver, coordinator of the National Kids Count project, told the Argus Leader Wednesday that the solution to the state's child poverty problem lies in creating employment opportunities for South Dakota parents.
"The bottom line are jobs, jobs and more jobs," Beaver said.