To the editor:

Twenty-two percent of the children in Jefferson County live below the poverty line, according to the last U.S .Census. More than 14 percent of the county is living below that line.

While many of us may carry on our lives without the capacity to understand the daily struggle to survive faced by so many of our fellow citizens, their lives carry on.

The people represented by these numbers are all around us - our family and friends, acquaintances and coworkers - yet they remain the silent minority in our community. When do we make helping them a priority?

The recently announced plan by local business leaders to fund a quality of life initiative for Jefferson County should certainly be taken as welcome news, but mention of the real problems we face was nowhere to be found in its initial announcement or in the recent letter of support from local community leaders.

By all means we should be working together to make this a better place to live - but why haven't our local elected officials risen to the challenge of making this a better place to live? Where was their involvement in these sorts of initiatives before businessmen, who literally cannot afford to let quality of life slip too far, took action?

As a young person who has always considered Madison and Jefferson County home, I am ashamed of these statistics and I am completely unsatisfied with our efforts to change them.

Any plan to make this a better place to live should start with our brothers and sisters represented by these numbers. We must commit ourselves to building a better home for everyone. There are too many of us who have been without a voice and helping hand for too long-and too many more growing up in the same shadow. It is my hope that the next generation of leadership that must rise from our community will feel the same fiery passion and burning desire for change that I do. The status quo is no longer good enough. We can do better. We must do better.

Patrick Thevenow