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On root causes and Root Canals

By Katy Attanasi Baker | Development Coordinator HOTEL INC.

In 1981, a Bible study group began asking, “How can we address poverty in Bowling Green?” They thought they would build a mission center in a donated hotel (hence, the name) but even with that dream unrealized, they began bringing together individuals and churches to meet needs.


Forty-three years later, we are still asking that hard question, but with a new focus: “How do we extend love to the forgotten neighborhood of Delafield?” The generosity of individuals, businesses, foundations, and churches provides funding for our work.

As we’ve shifted our programming from short-term work (a food pantry and a drop-in center), it’s become harder to describe what we do. We have struggled to explain the profound impact we make in our community, especially when our work is no longer measured in pounds of food distributed or number of people dropping in


So here is another try at describing what we do: HOTEL INC works in the forgotten neighborhood of Delafield to support their dreams for food access, housing stability, and security. We started a Market to offer discounted fresh foods to our neighborhood (offset by retail shoppers/members); we prioritize Delafield/West End residents in our Wholistic Partnership Program where we walk alongside people as they work toward stability (including housing stability), and cover some of their moving expenses when they move into their new places. We are also home to the Delafield Neighborhood Group which meets regularly to advocate for the aesthetic and safety adjustments that would move them toward flourishing.

We are striving to do long-term work and to get to the root causes of poverty. There is an important place for groups in Bowling Green’s nonprofit ecosystem that deal with crisis. We do not want to duplicate their services.

We are working to get to the root causes of poverty and to walk alongside people as they discover their own abilities, reach their own goals, and achieve the freedom that comes when we get at the root causes of poverty.

Here’s a short story to show the difference between treating symptoms versus the root cause of the problem.

Two weeks ago, I woke up what I thought was jaw pain. I took some ibuprofen and dismissed it as stress related. A few days later I realized I would need a more disciplined regiment of Tylenol and Ibuprofen to stay ahead of the pain, and I scheduled an appointment with the dentist.

Since I typically prefer not to suffer silently, I was explaining to a colleague my situation. She looked at me and said, “Your jaw is swollen, you have an abscess and are going to need a root canal.”

Dear reader, I had no idea what the cause or the cure for a root canal was until I sat in the dental chair five minutes before the procedure started. The endodontist explained that trauma had occurred to my tooth killing the nerves, which was attracting bacteria and causing an infection accompanied by swelling and pain. The pain could be treated by over-the-counter medicine, but the relief would be temporary. The only way to treat the infection was to clean out the dead nerves and seal off the tooth.

When we are in crisis, we treat the symptoms of a deeper problem.Whether it’s an ibuprofen, a meal, a blanket, or a pair of shoes, we all sometimes need some emergency care to get through.

In a class called ‘Getting Ahead,” participants dig into their history and reality and look backward in order to move forward.

But poverty is not just a lack of material goods and resources. There are deeper inequities and challenges that must be addressed to bring about long-term change. Obtaining and maintaining stability, independence, and freedom take significant work and support.

That is the work we are doing at HOTEL INC. Working for long-term change by getting to the root causes of the problem. We invite you to join us.

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