It comes as no surprise to anyone who has listened to the news: donations to non-profits are down around the country.
Meanwhile need has increased. Most non-profits have seen requests for assistance increase dramatically in recent months, often by as much as 30 percent.
“This means that even if a non-profit’s income has stayed even with last year it is still having difficulty meeting the needs of its clients,” says Nancy Kieling, executive director of the Princeton Area Community Foundation.
“No organization is immune,” says Kieling, who as a member of the national Council of Foundations hears reports from other foundations and non-profits across the country. “Some are down by as much as 50 percent.”
TASK. At the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen not only are the numbers of people served rising, they are seeing new groups of people in need of help. “We are seeing more of the newly unemployed who have never been in before, more families with children, and more seniors,” says Dennis Micai, executive director for the non-profit.
TASK has seen an increase in traffic of about 8 percent over last year, he says. “Our figures change from week to week throughout the month, with the fewest people coming in the first week of the month and the largest numbers in the last week.” Last year the organization averaged between 15,000 and 17,000 meals served in a month, while this year the average is between 16,000 and 18,000 .
While donations of food and are always welcome, “the best help anyone can give us is money,” says Micai. “Through the USDA food purchasing programs we can buy food at a great discount. If an individual goes to the store and buys a box of cereal to donate to us that is great and we are happy to have it, but if they donate that same amount of money to us we can buy seven boxes of cereal.” For more information or to donate to TASK visit www.trentonsoupkitchen.org.
United Way of Greater Mercer County. The United Way focuses on helping people in three areas: education, economic stability, and health. It distributes money to a wide variety of organizations and programs throughout the county. “We are seeing an impact not just here in Mercer County, but all across New Jersey and across the nation,” say president and CEO Craig Lafferty. “Contributors are not confident and donations have slowed.” The full impact will not be known until mid- to late-January when most of the area non-profits finish their annual appeals.
“I’d just ask people who have the ability to give this year to make a donation, even if it is less than they made last year,” he says. To learn more about the United Way go to www.uwgmc.org.
HomeFront. “It was as if a light switch was turned on in September,” says Connie Mercer, chief executive of Homefront. “That’s when our calls jumped 30 percent and they’ve continued at that level ever since.”
The organization assists families in need in a variety of ways including supplying furniture and clothing, meal vouchers and housing. “We’re seeing a slight upturn in homelessness, but most of what we see are pre-homeless problems,” says Mercer. This includes people in need of food, money to make rent or keep utilities turned on, or money for medicine.
Mercer has also seen the changing face of the people who come to her office. “These are different folks,” she says. “They are not the chronically homeless; the chronic homeless person has given up and accepted it. These people are different. They come with tears and they come with shame and trepidation. Many of them tell me that last year they were donors. This year they need our help.” She tells of one woman who recently brought in a $7 money order donation. “She had received help from us several months ago and this was all she could spare to donate, but she still wanted to give something back.”
The donations of toys and other items for children are one of the bright spots that Mercer sees right now. “We have enough to supply about 3,000 kids with something for Christmas,” she says. HomeFront has been “holding steady” on donations compared to last year, she says, but with the huge increase in need they are still falling behind. What do they need the most? “Cash,” says Mercer. “We just need money.” To donate to Homefront go to www.homefrontnj.org.
Princeton Senior Resource Center. Despite the gloom in the air, Sue Hoskins, of the Princeton Senior Resource Center, can still find some bright spots. “When times get tough we turn to our community and to each other,” she says. “That’s what I see here at the Senior Center; our seniors look out for each other. My big concern is for the seniors who are isolated, who aren’t part of our community here.”
The Senior Center offers a wide variety of services, from classes and meals at the center itself to answering questions about resources for seniors, and finding volunteers for a variety of home visiting services. The center’s volunteers make home “companionship visits,” as well as run errands for seniors or help with tasks such as opening and reading mail for the visually impaired.
“Yes, we are anxious about our annual appeal,” she says. “People are cutting back everywhere. I’d just ask them not to abandon giving altogether, give whatever they can afford, and if they can’t afford to give money they can always give time. We can always use more volunteers.” For more information visit www.princetonsenior.org.
Catholic Charities. “The number of people in need is exploding,” says Francis Dolan, executive director of Catholic Charities of Trenton. “At the same time funding is falling further behind. It’s not just the private philanthropy, there have also been cutbacks in state funding as well.”
Catholic Charities offers a wide array of services including services for the homeless, shelter for battered women, and mental health services. You can donate online to Catholic Charities at www.catholiccharitiestrenton.org.