It’s crunch time for local holiday drives.
Nonprofits will give out food, gifts, blankets, coats and other services for those in need next week.
But with distribution just days away, the organizations still need more donations. The most dire need is cash.
Holiday drives are most in need of cash donations.
Carolyn Kell, marketing coordinator for Inter-Faith Ministries, which coordinates Operation Holiday, said she and other organizers were surprised to receive fewer applications for help than they originally anticipated.
Operation Holiday estimated it would serve more than 14,000 low-income residents.
She said the organization received 11,875 applications for help. Half of those are for children.
Operation Holiday served 12,341 people last year, and Kell said she expects this year’s final tally to be similar once they serve people who seek help next week who did not apply for services.
“I would like to think it’s because there’s less need, but I don’t know,” she said. “It really is not at all what we projected.”
She added that it could stem from fewer mailers the organization sent out this year.
Operation Holiday provides Dillons gift cards, toys, coats and blankets to low-income residents in Wichita.
Kell said the group could use more canned fruit, cereal and peanut butter. She said Operation Holiday has collected about half the 100,000 items it hopes to receive — plenty of which are green beans.
Operation Holiday needs more canned fruit, cereal, peanut butter, coats, blankets and teen gifts.
Peanut butter, she said, tends to be an all-around good food for the population they serve.
“It’s healthy, and a lot of low-income people have bad teeth, so it’s something where, even if you only have a few teeth, you can still eat it,” she said.
Operation Holiday hopes to collect 4,500 jars of peanut butter this season. Kell said they’ve received about 2,500.
Kell said the donation center could also use more blankets and more children’s coats.
“Not every child that comes in needs or wants a coat, but most of them do,” she said. “Most of them could absolutely use a coat.”
The group started a pet food drive this year and tried to boost its Teen 2 Teen project, which aims to have teens pick out gifts for other teens.
She said teen gifts often get overlooked because most people buy gifts for younger children. She said the group is in great need of gifts for teens.
She said the organization received seven pallets of dog collars and leashes, which was a surprise.
“That’s one of the fun things about Operation Holiday is that every year we get something unexpected,” she said.
Overall, Kell said Operation Holiday is most in need of cash donations. As of Friday, the organization had collected about $175,000 toward its goal of $350,000.
$175,000 Funds collected by Operation Holiday
$175,000 Additional funds needed toward its goal
Kell said she has Sunday marked on her calendar as the official panic day for Operation Holiday.
People who applied for help will visit the distribution center, at 6225 E. Kellogg, Thursday through Dec. 19 to pick out the items they need. Others who did not apply, but still need help, can visit the distribution center Dec. 18 or 19.
Operation Holiday is run by Inter-Faith Ministries and includes support from Toys for Tots and Catholic Charities. To donate and find drop-off locations, visit http://interfaithwichita.org/operation-holiday/donate or call 316-264-9303. Checks can be mailed to 829 N. Market, Wichita, KS 67214.
Salvation Army Major Joseph Wheeler said the group was behind in its money drive and donations of food, toys and other holiday items this year.
As of Friday, the Salvation Army had collected about a third of its $1.8 million goal – $594,000 thus far.
The organization saw a shortfall in its money drive last year, too. It fell short by $248,000. At this rate, the Salvation Army would collect even less this year.
$594,000 Funds collected by Salvation Army
$1,206,000 Additional funds needed to meet goal
“Because of that loss last year, we had to do some restructuring,” Wheeler said. “From January to September, we lost five or six employees.
“The workload is up and demand is up, so we’re hoping that we don’t have to look at any of those things for the year to come.”
He emphasized the importance of the holiday donation drive because it funds the work the Salvation Army does for people in need year-round.
Wheeler noted United Way’s fundraiser shortcomings this year as an indication of fewer donations all around.
“That means the demand for our services will be on the rise as we go into the new year,” he said. “There’s not going to be less people needing our help, there’s going to be more people needing our help, so we just want to be prepared.”
There’s not going be less people needing our help, there’s going be more people needing our help, so we just want to be prepared.
Salvation Army Major Joseph Wheeler
The Salvation Army has several holiday programs, including Star of Hope, to collect gifts for adults and seniors with special needs, and Angel Trees, to collect gifts for children. Both projects will accept gifts through Sunday evening.
The Salvation Army increased its age limit this year for Angel Tree children.
Angel Trees are Christmas trees with numbered paper tags hung from the branches. The tags have the first name, age and gender of a child or teen in need of toys or clothes. People can take one or more of the tags and buy gifts for the children described on the tag.
It previously included children 14 and younger, but this year the agency widened its reach to include 15- and 16-year-olds.
The Salvation Army will distribute goods Thursday and Dec. 18. Wheeler said people who did not apply for services can contact the Salvation Army to visit the donation center Dec. 19.
To donate to the Salvation Army, visit a bell-ringing site, mail a check to Salvation Army, 350 N. Market, Wichita, KS 67202, or visit redkettlegifts.org.
Share the Season
Share the Season, a local effort coordinated by the Wichita Community Foundation, the Salvation Army and The Eagle, has seen comparable donations this year to last year.
Share the Season offers one-time assistance to people who need help because of hardships such as job loss or illness.
Recipients typically receive help paying utility or medical bills, and payments are made directly to creditors.
“This is for people that don’t qualify for any other public assistance,” said Courtney Bengston, director of communications for the Wichita Community Foundation. “This is for people that have really hit a hard time and need help getting them over the hump.”
As of Friday, Share the Season had raised $131,226 and had received 430 applications.
In total, Share the Season helped 214 families last year and received $244,500 from donors.
People can still apply for assistance during the holiday season at www.sharetheseason.org and at the Salvation Army headquarters, 350 N. Market. For information about applying, call 316-263-2769. The application deadline is Dec. 20.
People who have experienced unexpected hardships can still apply for help from Share the Season.
Contributions may be sent to Share the Season, Wichita Community Foundation, 301 N. Main, Suite 100, Wichita, KS 67202, or can be made through PayPal online at www.sharetheseason.org. For information about donating, call 316-264-4880.
Kansas Food Bank
The Kansas Food Bank said its food and money donations are consistent with last year.
Debi Kreutzman, community relations manager for the Kansas Food Bank, said people tend to give more during the holidays, but the need doesn’t stop.
“Hunger isn’t just here during the holidays,” she said. “It’s a year-round, day-to-day fight.”
Hunger isn’t just here during the holidays. It’s a year-round, day-to-day fight.
Debi Kreutzman, community relations manager for the Kansas Food Bank
The food bank said it’s most in need of peanut butter, canned fruit and canned proteins, such as tuna, chicken or other meats and fish.
Kreutzman said Cargill offered to match $60,000 in donations toward the Kansas Food Bank’s school project called Food-4-Kids. But the food bank would have to gather $60,000 in separate donations by Dec. 31 for Cargill to make the match.
Food-4-Kids is a weekend backpack program that discreetly provides food for kids in need. On Fridays, teachers slip a package of easy-to-eat, kid-friendly foods in the backpacks of children who may not receive enough food at home.
To make a donation, visit www.kansasfoodbank.org/how-to-help/donate-money/ or call 316-265-3003. Checks may be mailed to 1919 E. Douglas, Wichita, KS 67211.