With the weather being far more delightful than frightful, holiday giving for the needy hasn’t reached a fever pitch.
The response has been paltry in some cases.
InterFaith Ministries needs 100,000 food items for its Operation Holiday to feed families and individuals in the Wichita area. As of midweek, the nonprofit has received only 11,000 items.
It’s almost Christmas. Where’s the giving spirit?
Unseasonably mild weather apparently is partially to blame, say those who are involved with helping provide for the needy. Temperatures in the 70s warm the body but not necessarily the heart.
“We think it might be the weather,” InterFaith marketing director Sandi Harrison said. “I don’t think people have gotten into the holiday mode. I know it’s affected me. I can’t believe our (food) distribution is next week.”
Dropping money in the Salvation Army’s red kettles usually doesn’t hit its stride until closer to Christmas, but it’s been running a little slower than normal this year, said Brian Carroll, the organization’s local development director.
“When it’s 75 degrees and you’re wearing shorts,” he said, “it doesn’t have the Christmas feel.”
Saturday, four nonprofit groups for the first time will come together for a Community Day of Giving by accepting different kinds of donations from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Dillons store at 7707 E. Central, at Rock. InterFaith, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities and the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots will all participate and have representatives at the store.
The four groups combined to serve 35,000 people during the holiday season last year.
Saturday’s event is about more than raising awareness of needs.
“Our main objective is to help people understand that we are not competing with each other,” Harrison said. “We’re joining our efforts so that we can serve more people.”
Part of that process is avoiding duplication of service. The Salvation Army serves as a clearinghouse by operating a database that collects information from most of the city’s major nonprofits on what individuals or families it has helped and how.
The database helps ensure that the limited resources are effectively spread among those who need them.
“We know the need is greater than it’s ever been before,” said Wendy Glick, development and marketing director for Catholic Charities. “By collaborating we hope to bring all our resources together to meet needs instead of each of us doing our own thing.”
Money is the one donation all agencies will accept. They can stretch a dollar into more value because they can purchase in bulk, leaders say.
Beyond cash, though, InterFaith needs food items. It begins its three-day food distribution to those who have filed an application next Thursday at 2221 N. Amidon. The application deadline has passed.
Food may still be dropped off at the distribution center from noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to 5 p.m. Friday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. A list of other collection sites can be found at InterFaith’s website, interfaithwichita.org, and clicking on Operation Holiday.
For families and individuals who need food but missed filing an application with InterFaith or getting holiday help from the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities will distribute food from the same center on Amidon from noon to 5 p.m. on Dec. 17 and 18.
No application is necessary. But the head of the household will need to bring a photo identification, show proof of address and provide the Social Security numbers for everyone in the home, Glick said.
Families needing help after Dec. 18 can go to the Catholic Charities’ Our Daily Bread Food Pantry, 2825 S. Hillside. The pantry will be open from 8:30 a.m. to noon Dec. 19 and 20 and from 9 a.m. to noon on Dec. 22.
Household items – such as small appliances, cleaning products and bedding – are also needed by Catholic Charities for those who are staying at the group’s two shelters.
“Our work is to get them in housing,” Glick said. “When they come to us to stay in the shelters, they’ve pretty much lost everything.”
Donated items for Catholic Charities may be taken to its headquarters at 532 N. Broadway.
Red kettle collections help the Salvation Army meet its goal of raising $1.8 million for its Christmas campaign, Mission of Hope. But the money isn’t just for holiday needs.
“It helps us meet the needs throughout the year, Carroll said. “Needs are increasing.”
The organization raised a little more than $1.6 million last year, falling just short of its $1.7 million goal, he added.
While the economy may be holding back some of the giving, he said, “I think people are doing a little better, but they’re still not quite sure. We have a generous community here. When they see a need, they respond.”
It’s too early to tell what the response has been to the Salvation Army’s annual Angel Tree program, which provides gifts for children 14 and younger. More than 9,600 angels, about the same as last year, have been hung on trees in churches, businesses and malls around town, Carroll said.
Youthville, which deals with adoption and foster care, has a similar program. Instead of angels, it hangs ornaments on trees around town. More than 1,200 have been distributed with a variety of requests from children.
“Some kids want basic stuff, like tennis shoes,” said Youthville marketing director Lynn Deckinger. “Others want a bike or video games.”
Youthville’s employees also are helping provide holiday meals to 80 families. A group of local hotels and lodging facilities have donated turkeys, but Youthville employees are bringing in the rest of the food to complete the meals.
“These are social workers who don’t get paid a lot,” Deckinger said. “I think it’s cool they are willing to band together to help feed these families.”