December 10, 2013

Holiday giving running slow for some Wichita charitable groups

Blame it on the weather, a late Thanksgiving or just plain old procrastination.

Blame it on the weather, a late Thanksgiving or just plain old procrastination.

Donations to local charities that rely on holiday-time giving to meet the community’s needs are running slow. In some cases, very slow.

“My experience with giving in Wichita is this is last-minute town,” Wendy Glick, director of development and marketing at Catholic Charities Wichita, said Tuesday. “We’re not in a panic mode yet. We still have two weeks before Christmas.”

And then there’s the weather.

“It didn’t get cold until last week,” said Anne Corriston, Inter-Faith Ministries’ executive director. “Cold weather spurs people to think about the holidays. It’s a little hard to do that when you’re driving around with the windows down and wearing shorts.”

Of course, it’s been so cold recently that some might argue the weather kept people from getting out to drop off donations. But coming days show a trend toward more seasonable temperatures, so the weather excuse should be out.

Thanksgiving Day didn’t come until the final week of November this year, squeezing the traditional Christmas season some.

“We knew it would be down a little bit because of the shorter season,” said Brian Carroll, local spokesman for the Salvation Army.

Nonetheless, the needs remain.

In a little more than a week, Inter-Faith Ministries will start distributing food and other items to more than 11,000 people who have applied for help.

But only about 16 percent of the nonperishable food items necessary to meet the need for the group’s annual Operation Holiday have been collected so far, Corriston said.

The organization needs 150,000 items, but only about 25,000 have been collected.

“I’m optimistic, though, because the good people in Wichita always come through,” she said.

Distribution of the items to low-income men, women and children is Dec. 19-21. The application deadline has passed.

Operation Holiday also needs teen gifts in the $5 to $10 range and winter coats that are either new or are clean and in good condition. Children’s and larger adult sizes are needed most, the nonprofit said.

The red kettles are key for the Salvation Army’s Mission of Hope, which has a goal of $1.8 million this year. It helped about 50,000 people in the Wichita area last year, the organization said.

“We’re down a little bit from where we were at this time last year,” Carroll said. “But going into the last two weeks, we see it pick up quite a bit.”

Catholic Charities is only about one third of the way to meeting its goal of $500,000, which is about where the organization was at this time last year, Glick said.

While year-end giving is targeted by the group, Catholic Charities’ money is used to meet needs throughout the year in funding its homeless shelter and shelter for victims of domestic abuse.

Catholic Charities is running behind on its Adopt a Shelter Family program, which provides basic household items for those moving out of its shelters. Companies often adopt a family around Christmastime, Glick said.

Typically, 50 to 75 families are adopted each year. So far this year, only 30 have been adopted, Glick said.

“We’re extremely low,” she said. “We haven’t had the people respond to it.”

The Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots campaign tries to collect about 20,000 new toys each year.

“We’re down a little bit,” Sgt. Kevin Griffiths said, “but we’ll make ends meet.”

The major charities also cooperate in helping each other out.

Catholic Charities gives donations from its food drives to Inter-Faith’s Operation Holiday, with any remaining items going to Catholic Charities’ food pantry. Toys for Tots distributes many of its toys through Inter-Faith.

To avoid 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. It tracks which individuals or families have been helped or how.

“It’s not a competition between us,” Carroll said. “We want to make sure we’re not duplicating services.”

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