Donations to Wichita’s three major holiday charity collections is lagging slightly behind last year, but officials of the nonprofit groups are hoping to make it up with about two weeks to go before Christmas.
Inter-Faith Ministries’ Operation Holiday, the Salvation Army and Catholic Charities all said Friday that they still have needs – some of them time-sensitive – to meet their goal of brightening the Christmas season for impoverished Wichitans.
Economic stress as the Midwest slowly recovers from recession has affected the charity equation on both sides, increasing the need for donations while cutting into the donor pool, said Anne Corriston, executive director of Interfaith Ministries.
“This part of the country doesn’t seem to be bouncing back economically as well as many other communities,” Corriston said. “We lost some really good-paying jobs. I don’t think that they got replaced.”
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She said her group will be helping about 12,000 people who have signed up for assistance this year with winter gear, toys and food.
The charity is fine on collecting coats, with some help from Spangles restaurants and In the Bag Cleaners. Toys are also taken care of, courtesy of a partnership with the Marines’ Toys for Tots program, Corriston said.
But Operation Holiday still needs about 40,000 items of nonperishable food to fill out food boxes. That distribution starts Thursday, but Corriston said she thinks it will be OK once people are more aware of the need.
“We’ve been short before, but when we get the word out, there are always great people who say, ‘We want to help,’ ” she said.
Canned food, especially prepared soup, meat or other foods with pop tops, is especially appreciated because it can be eaten even if a person doesn’t have a kitchen or can opener, she said.
People who want to donate can bring food items to the Operation Holiday Distribution Center at 6225 E. Kellogg Drive South or drop-off sites at partner businesses throughout the community. To find your nearest drop-off, call 316-264-9303.
Things are pretty much the same at Catholic Charities, which is also playing a little catch-up.
“Our year-end goal is $800,000, and we’re 40 percent of the way there, which is pretty typical looking back at the other years,” development director Wendy Glick said. “We’ve got about 2 1/2 weeks yet to go in 2014, and those tend to be the heavy donation weeks.
“We’re feeling confident. We know that Wichita is a very generous community, and we have done some good work all year. We are hopeful” that the community will again respond and support the work that the nonprofit does.
Catholic Charities offers 14 different programs for people in economic or social distress, but the two best known are Harbor House, a domestic violence shelter, and St. Anthony Family Shelter for homeless families.
Providing Christmas for the shelter families is always a worry, Glick said.
“We like to provide toys and gifts for teens and adults in the shelters at Christmas time,” Glick said. “Those things always come in a little bit later than we would like.”
Donated gifts are placed store-like in a room in each of the shelters.
“The kids can come in and shop for mom and dad and mom and dad can come in and shop for the kids,” Glick said. “And then on Christmas morning in their rooms within the shelter, then they can have their own little family celebration.”
The holiday gifting is geared to the concept that people in the shelter will soon be moving out and setting up households, so the wish list for grown-ups is heavily weighted toward practical items such as towels, small appliances and kitchen gear – pretty much anything parents would want to give their grown children who are moving out on their own, Glick said.
The charity asks for toys for the young children. For teens, personal electronic items, fragrances and sportswear are popular, she said.
People who want to donate to Catholic Charities can contact the group at 316-264-8344.
At the Salvation Army, Maj. Glen Gaddy reports that the annual holiday collection is about $20,000 behind where the collection was at this time last year.
Last year, the service-minded church raised $1,715,000 toward a goal of $1.8 million. This year, the goal was set at $1.75 million, he said.
The Salvation Army’s most visible holiday effort is the red-kettle bell ringers outside stores and shopping centers. They’ve been out since Nov. 14 and “will stay out there until Christmas Eve,” Gaddy said.
The Salvation Army also gets most of its larger donations at this time of year to run its year-round operation. It also administers the Angel Tree project that matches donors to more than 9,400 children’s gift wishes.
Caddy said the Angel Tree drive appears headed toward a successful conclusion. “People have been picking up the angels and stars and buying the toys and bringing them in,” he said.
Like the other charities, the Salvation Army also collects food, personal hygiene, clothing, household and entertainment items.
To contact the Salvation Army about donating, call 316-263-2769.
Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.