Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

by Patricia Yarberry Allen

In the 21st century, we live differently than people who suffered through the Great Depression of the early twentieth.  At least many people in the 1930’s had extended families and communities of which they had always been a part.  There was someone there who might care.

Now people have dispersed as a matter of course, moving for better jobs, moving away for a better life.  Now these individuals find that they know few people really well and that they may have no safety net al all.  Often these days many Americans are disconnected from their community in all the traditional ways, including loss of participation in both civic and religious community life.  They have no place to go for any helping hand.

The lines are beginning to form around the country.  And often, we’re on them.

As boomers are losing their jobs in unprecedented numbers they go first to their company’s Human Resources department.They get in line for unemployment benefits, and as quickly as possible they join the lines of others looking for work at job fairs.  Of course, many are on line virtually as well, posting their resumes at and hundreds of other job classified sites.

Every sector in our economy is affected.  Industries where women are employed in large numbers —  retail, hospitality, the travel industry, real estate, banking and financial services, all areas of the media and executive support staff across a wide range of corporations — are being forced to lay off  non-essential employees in ever increasing numbers due to this prolonged recession.

The big questions that we have not asked publicly are these: What happens when hundreds of thousands are unemployed or underemployed long enough so that they can no longer pay for housing?  Where will these people go?

In the Great Depression the process of economic contraction moved much slower than what we are seeing now.  Most evidence shows that revenue in many parts of the economy now is dropping so quickly that firms can not cut jobs fast enough.  Rising unemployment will very quickly become an issue that may not  be fixed for years.  We need to ask, could this destroy our social order as we know it?

Americans who have jobs and resources, financial and otherwise, need to become part of all the local organizations in each community to build a national safety net as quickly as possible.  We need local think tanks to create programs that don’t currently exist to meet the extraordinary needs of those who will have nothing.  Organizations like the Junior League (co-founded by Eleanor Roosevelt) and the Women’s Forum beginning to refocus the service part of their work, reaching beyond those they have traditionally served  to those in their community who are in need.

The New York Women’s Forum has encouraged its members to take every phone call, respond to every email from those in their organization who need to connect with others when they have lost a job and need to re-tool fast.  And, in this organization of high-profile and powerful women, a Forum Outreach Committee has already been created to address the concerns of members in need.

Many of us have much more to give than we could have ever imagined.

We need to become volunteer social workers.  We need to make lists of those in trouble and what they need.  We need to give from our pantry, our closets, our talents and our time.

Doctors and health care providers are waiting for a way to give back to others. Free clinics for health care can be established in community centers, schools, and religious centers.   This kind of free medical care in communities across the country would require urgent tort reform, but that can happen and is long overdue.

American citizens are in trouble now.  We can’t wait for the job stimulus bill, nor can we rely on it.  We can’t wait for the time that it will take for Health Care Reform.  We need  right now to care for each other and for our neighbors in despair.

Our society has the opportunity to reclaim the values that were once the bedrock of America.  As part of the reinvention of our society, charity must become a part of the character of each person of respect and  charity must return to its true meaning:  generous actions or donations to aid the poor, ill or helpless.

As part of the reinvention of our society, those of us who have something to give must join the nation in this fight of our lives for the care of all our citizens.

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