Charities cope with donation decline

ALBANY -- Representatives of local non-profits said Wednesday they are feeling a little bit of the pinch of a down economy as donations show signs of slowing.

"Kettles are down 10 percent this year," said Doug McClure of the Salvation Army of Albany at West Second Avenue. "Our mail donations are also down 14 percent this year."

He said the decline if donations is even more troubling when you take into account the steady increase in requests for services, which is up 40 percent from last year at the Salvation Army.

"It's disturbing to think that a lot of our donors have now become those in need of our assistance," said McClure. "Some of the people that we could count on for yearly donations are now unable to do so. It's a vicious cycle."

In light of continued joblessness, the Salvation Army started a program in October to get families with employed members a boost.

"There are some people working, but they are living paycheck to paycheck," said McClure. "Sometimes it's not enough."

He said the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Program helps families and people get back on their feet.

"It (is a program) for the working people," said McClure.

The Lord's Pantry on West Society Avenue is coping with trying to assist more people said C.B. Fincher, secretary of the board of directors of the Lord's Pantry.

"We're seeing more people definitely," he said. "Roughly 2,765 people in the last year have sought our help at least once."

Fincher said The Lord's Pantry is blessed to have loyal donors, even during a recession.

"We are finding that people eat all year round and that is our goal," he said. "Because of the low budget and a staff of volunteers we are able to stay afloat."

Fincher said year-to-year donations are remaining constant.

"We have a dedicated base of donors, we are fortunate," he said.

Brett Kirkland, President and CEO of the Food Bank of Southwest Georgia on Phillips Drive, said unlike many other non-profits the food bank is weathering the recession quite well.

"We are having a phenomenal year," he said.

Kirkland said a change in practice is what helped the food bank reach it's goal of becoming debt free.

"In the past we have not been good about asking the public and the community for money," he said.

Kirkland said after the non-profit opened up the lines of communication through direct mail to receive donations, things started picking up.

"That has been way more successful that we could have imagined," he said. "It has allowed us to increase our distribution up 28 percent from last year."

The food bank, which served more than four million pounds of food to 20 counties last year, was fortunate, said Kirkland.

"People have been more selective (with their donations)," he said. "During times of economic strife, luckily, people tend to direct their funds to social issues like hunger, homelessness and poverty."

McClure said that while all of the local non-profits know they are competing for donation dollars, all have resolved to keep giving.

"It's very confusing to donors sometimes on which charity to support," he said. "It's important to remember that doing good is the bottom line."