Ken Locke, Community Ministries Director of the Kosciusko County Salvation Army, addresses a crowd at See the Need on Thursday. The exhibit, at New Horizon Community Church, 1300 Wooster Road, Winona Lake, is open tonight from 6 to11 p.m. The exhibit is aimed at raising awareness about local poverty issues. Photo by Tim Robertson, Times-Union
Ken Locke, Community Ministries Director of the Kosciusko County Salvation Army, addresses a crowd at See the Need on Thursday. The exhibit, at New Horizon Community Church, 1300 Wooster Road, Winona Lake, is open tonight from 6 to11 p.m. The exhibit is aimed at raising awareness about local poverty issues. Photo by Tim Robertson, Times-Union
Editor's Note: This is the second part of a three-part series on the effects of financial need in Kosciusko County. The series looks at three local events aimed at bringing awareness and responses to poverty in our area. Part three will be published Tuesday.

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It is not uncommon to be asked for some spare change or to see homeless people sleeping on park benches in a big city like Chicago or Detroit. But those things aren't as common in rural communities like Kosciusko County.

Community Ministries Director of the Kosciusko County Salvation Army Ken Locke said that doesn't mean there aren't people in need here. According to Locke, the number of Kosciusko County residents living in poverty is climbing and awareness is the first step to alleviating the problem.
"It's hard to put a face on poverty, especially in a rural area," Locke told a crowd of about 40 Thursday. "We don't have people living in cardboard boxes, yet we do have homeless people here."

Locke was speaking at See the Need, a community art exhibit aimed at raising awareness and response to local poverty. About 20 local artists contributed to the exhibit held Thursday, Friday and tonight at New Horizon Community Church, Winona Lake.

New Horizon Pastor Scott Barger said his church chose to host an art exhibit because of the personal way in which art can communicate.

"People connect with it," Barger said.

Though his church is not a social service agency, Barger said they want to be involved in helping fight the effects of poverty. He said See the Need is a first step for both his congregation and the community to gain more awareness of the problem and then begin to identify actions they can take.

"You can't care about something that you don't acknowledge," Barger said. "The first step is getting people to acknowledge this is a problem. If we can get that first step, maybe we can begin to do something about it."

At the exhibit Thursday, area residents browsed the paintings, photographs and other work on display. One artist, Rebecca Gypson, Warsaw, described the idea behind her piece, a photographic portrait of a tired-looking man with a beard.

"I met this man a few months ago," Gypson said. "He has spent many years of his life homeless. He told me that for five months he lived in Warsaw in an abandoned storage unit. I grew up in this area and always thought that there were no homeless."

Gypson, who works for New Hope Clubhouse, Warsaw, said in recent years her perspective has changed. "Now, I encounter poverty daily because of my job," she said. "I am constantly surprised by the poverty that exists in our community because there is a lot of wealth in our community."

Gypson said she hopes See the Need can begin to get a message out to the local community. "The poor in our community are hidden," she said. "The desperately needy people deserve our notice. We need to take up their cause."

Grace College students Matthew Rupple and Jaime Ove said, to them, the exhibit's message was loud and clear.

"[Poverty] is something we just look over," Rupple said.

"It's something that's here, not just in other countries," said Ove. "This is we need to be helping."

Josh Phillips, of Warsaw, said he felt the pieces in the exhibit represented an accurate picture of need in this county.

"From what I've seen personally in this county, they've done a good job portraying it," Phillips said.

Locke and Combined Community Services Director Lewis Jones held a question and answer session, Thursday, at See the Need. Locke said he was glad to see an event organized to bring awareness. He said more awareness of the problem of poverty will lead to more community involvement in solving the problem.

"The good thing is that people are talking," he said. "The one way we're going to be able to attack poverty is if we're talking with one another."

Locke told the crowd it is important not only to be aware that poverty exists in the community, but also to have an accurate perception of the issue of poverty.

"Poverty is not a sin," Locke said. "I think, especially in America, if you're poor, it's almost as if it's a sin. Poverty is a condition. It doesn't matter how much the guy next to you has in his pocket, in God's eyes, we're all equal."

Jones said it is often easy for outsiders to think that people in need could solve all of their problems with a little planning ahead. "But, one of the problems with poverty is that people are living day to day," Jones said. "There is no way, in all that chaos, to look into the future."

Jones said, to make a difference, it will take the combined efforts of government representatives, social service agencies, area employers, local churches and individual residents who care. "Let's all work together for a common good," he said.

Locke said he knows from personal experience the difference one community or even an individual can make. "I grew up poor," he said. "The thing that changed for me was there were people who gave me opportunities through education and encouragement."

See the Need is open to the public tonight 6-11 p.m. John Shirk, a poet from Chicago, is scheduled to read some of his poetry at 7 p.m. "A lot of my stuff is really about loving your neighbor even when your neighbor is not very lovely or is not like you," Shirk said.