The timing is critical.
As the temperature drops and holiday cheer peaks, Charlotte-area charities say now is the best – and often most important – time of year to collect donations that help balance their budgets, supply food and clothing and provide basic needs for families that have very little.
“This is the big time,” said Beverly Howard, executive director for Loaves & Fishes, which supplies a week’s worth of groceries to people in crisis through a network of 20 pantries. “A successful year-end giving drive is what we’ll need to be here for the next year.”
In Thursday’s Charlotte Observer, you’ll find the 2015 Giving Guide – a sampling from a list of 200 agencies accepting donations this holiday season. You can find more in the Observer’s community newspapers, and search the agencies at www.charlotteobserver.com/giving-guide. The guide, which will be online all year, can give you a head start for Giving Tuesday, a global push urging people to give to nonprofits the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.
“Every little bit helps; every dollar helps,” said Wilfred Neal, chief financial officer with the United Way of Central Carolinas.
The United Way gives money to 82 area agencies that help about 285,000 people each year. End-of-year giving helps the organization meet its $28 million budget – about $17 million of which goes to its partner charities, Neal said.
“People are thinking about how far they’ve come, how blessed they are, and they want to reach out and help others,” he said. “For the agencies that support critical needs, it’s a great time to receive money to help them get through the winter months.”
Those months are brutal for families fallen on hard times. Cold weather brings high utility costs and illness, making it hard for low-wage workers to meet basic household needs.
Enter Crisis Assistance Ministry, which helps the working poor with emergency clothing, household goods and rent and utilities. Last year, the agency raised $5 million to help more than 23,000 families, communications manager Tovi Martin said.
“We’re making sure people have a roof over their heads, heat, warm clothes, a bed to sleep in, a place to store and prepare their food,” she said. “These definitely are not luxuries. They’re essentials that many of us take for granted.”
While those needs are year-round, Martin said now is when donors “pause for a minute and take stock of how we’re engaged in the community.”
“The experts tell us ... the economic crisis has passed,” she said. “While that’s probably true at the higher levels of the economy, that change hasn’t reached the people who are at the lowest level.”
Last year, some 78,000 of those people got food from Loaves & Fishes. About 35,000 of them were children, Howard said.
The agency gets the bulk of its donations starting in October. That money helps buy fresh eggs, yogurt, cheese, meat and bread all year, especially in the summer when food drives are less successful because people save money for vacation, Howard said.
“What I always remind people is that it doesn’t matter if we’re feeding 100,000, 78,000 or 60,000, any number of hungry people in Charlotte is a scandal,” she said.