Holiday donations expected to dipPublished 2:36pm Friday, November 30, 2012
By WILLIAM CRANDELL
Special to Leader Publications
According to a recent nationwide survey conducted by The Dunham Company, Americans will not be giving as much this year to charities.
Even though 79 percent of those polled stated they will continue to support their usual charities and contribute about the same amount as last year, half of those surveyed said they will not support charities they were not familiar with and that is leading to a shortage in charitable giving this holiday season.
The reasons cited by many of the survey takers reflect the current state of the economy. Many donors said the rise in health care costs, insecurity in their personal finances, uncertainty about the current economy and the prospect of Washington not being able to reach an agreement over the fiscal cliff are causing donors to be more conservative in their spending. Unfortunately, this time of year is critical for most charities, and much of the funding they use throughout the year is raised during the holiday season.
Many local charities are having difficulties collecting donations this year. At the Salvation Army in Niles, donations are down considerably and the organization is seeing even more people in need this holiday season. According to Major William Walters, the bell ringers or The Kettles as they are called were down by $14,000 the first week. But Major Walters said he is hopeful things will pick up.
The Salvation Army in Niles has been averaging about $80,000 dollars per year through the kettle system and about $35,000 through the mail donations, he said. These donations not only help the poor through the holiday season but help to support other social programs, including the Lunch Brunch program that serves hot meals to the needy.
Joe Whitley, who has volunteered to ring the Kettles at local businesses for the past three years to raise donations, remains optimistic. “Things this year started out kind of slow, but they are picking up. There are plenty of people with the Christmas spirit.”
The Salvation Army also runs an annual Toy Shop every year and helps with local toy programs to aid families, including Toys for Tots, Angel Toys and The Stuff the Truck Toy drive with the Walmart on 11th Street in Niles. Toys will be collected in the Walmart parking lot from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 8.
The Soup Kitchen in Benton Harbor is also having a tough time this year keeping up with the demand as more people from throughout the county are beginning to utilize their services because of the sluggish economy.
“Our monetary donations are currently on schedule for the month of November, but they were low this summer,” according to Merry Stover the executive director.
Stover also went on to say the food donations are low because people tend to donate what they buy but don’t eat.
“People are being very conservative these days and are splurging less on food items so they aren’t donating like they used to.”
According to Stephanie Sobol, an administrative assistant at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Niles, donations are down about $18,000 since July. This lack of funding is affecting all the services that the organization offers through the Christian Service Center, including its food bank and its ability to help families in times of crises.
“It’s taken five years for the recession to have an impact on our finances, but we are definitely feeling it this year,” Sobol said.
But even with contributions being down this year, Major Tracy Walters, of the Salvation Army, is still optimistic.
“We will find ways to help those in need, the lord will provide in the end, he always does,” Waters said.