With the holiday season fast approaching, many local charities are struggling to find enough money and donations to help the needy. Charity administrators across the county say a combination of low donations and increased need is hindering their efforts – despite some improvements in the local job and housing markets.
Maudine Holloway is the director of the Community Enabler Developer in Anniston, one of the charities where money has been reportedly tight this year. Community Enabler is a nonprofit that provides low-income residents with basic needs like food and clothing.
“Donations have absolutely decreased,” Holloway said. “The donations we used to get, we don’t get anymore.”
Holloway, who could not specify by how much giving had decreased, said donations picked up last year and helped her organization through much of this year. But now, as the holiday season approaches, money and supplies are running low.
And though money and donations are tight, the need for Community Enabler’s services is growing, Holloway said.
“We’re seeing a lot of new, first-time folks who have never come in before,” Holloway said. “Some people have come in who have been laid off, and some have income but can’t make it out from what they get.”
Donations are so low that if Community Enabler did not have a deal with Renovation Ministries, another area charity, this year to provide free turkeys to Anniston residents, many people would not have Thanksgiving dinner this year, Holloway said.
“Renovation Ministries said they could take 500 people and give them free turkeys,” Holloway said. “I already sent them 500 names, and people are still coming asking.”
Holloway said what her organization really needs now is Christmas items and gifts.
Capt. Bert Lind, corps officer for the Salvation Army, who is in charge for all Salvation Army locations in Calhoun and Cleburne Counties, said his organization is also struggling. Lind said donations have stayed relatively steady the past two years. But again, the need for the Salvation Army’s services has increased by 30 percent, Lind said.
The Angel Tree program is how the Salvation Army provides Christmas toys and presents to needy families each year. Lind said families have different reasons why they need assistance from the program, including the loss of jobs.
Lind said many Salvation Army volunteers are already out with their red kettles asking for donations and that there will soon be more of them.
“We have people out at 18 locations now, and next week we’ll have more,” Lind said. “We could sure use some more donations.”
While charities appear to be struggling this year, there have been some signs of economic improvement in the area. According to recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 1,200 more people working in Anniston and Oxford in September than during the same month the previous year. Also, according to Alabama Department of Labor, the county’s unemployment rate was 8.2 percent in October, lower than the 8.6 percent rate during the same month last year.
The area has had layoff announcements in the past year, such as 145 workers being laid off from a BAE Systems facility in Anniston by the end of December. However, the nearby Honda manufacturing plant in Lincoln has created 450 new jobs in the past year as the company expands.
Shannon Jenkins, marketing director for United Way of East Central Alabama, said his organization has seen some improvement in donations this year compared to the previous year. United Way of East Central Alabama provides funding for about 23 agencies in Calhoun and Randolph Counties that help low-income residents. Much of its funds come through sponsorships with area businesses and their employees.
“What we’re seeing so far this year – we’ve definitely seen some slight increases,” Jenkins said of donations. “Some of the companies that support us are giving more … that’s telling of the future that things are more stable and secure.”
However, while United Way’s donations are rising, so too is demand,” Jenkins said.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think the need has dropped off,” Jenkins said. “We’ve maintained about the same level of need the last few years now.”
Money or gift donations for the Anniston Salvation Army can be brought to its location at 420 Noble Street. Donations of money, food or clothing for the Community Enabler Developer can be brought to its location at 1411 Gurnee Ave. in Anniston.
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.