Archive » November 6, 2008
NON-PROFITS FEEL ECONOMIC STAIN
By Brooke Matthews, Staff Writer
Our local nonprofits feel economic stain
As the holiday season fast approaches and experts predict economic woes lasting well into 2009, many local nonprofits are bracing for a cash-strapped year.
As people worry about meeting their own needs, many groups that rely on donations are nervous about what the future might bring.
Although nonprofits bring in donations throughout the year, there is no question that for many philanthropic folk, the end of the year evokes a spirit of giving.
Santa Ynez Valley’s People Helping People, an organization that provides individuals and families with resources that help them achieve self-sufficiency, already has begun to see a decline in donations.
“I can definitely understand why people are reining in their spending,” said Dean Palius, director of the organization. “I know that other nonprofits are struggling as well.”
People Helping People has seen a higher demand for its programs and services. “Our thrift store manager has noticed that there have been more shoppers but less donations. There is a lot of trepidation that donations are down.”
Palius said the organization’s Empty Bowls program, which solicits donations from local bakeries and restaurants, has had its share of financial downs with fewer restaurants participating in this year’s campaign.
People Helping People also contracts with the Santa Barbara County Food Bank, which is experiencing a 30 percent increase in demand from last year.
“People at the lower economic level are hit first and the hardest,” said Palius.
The Santa Ynez Valley Animal Shelter is feeling the strain as well.
“We’ve been gearing up our clinic because the need is greater,” said Cathy Pierce, the director of the shelter’s low-cost animal care program. “It’s definitely increased. Because of the economy, we’re really concerned with making all the services available.”
More stray and unwanted animals are showing up on the shelter’s doorstep. “It’s because of foreclosure,” she said. “It’s really unfortunate.”
However, Pierce noted that more animals have been placed this month than in previous months, 22 to be exact.
“The only explanation I have is that people are traveling less and staying home more,” she said.
When asked if the valley Senior Citizens Foundation is concerned about donations, Executive Director Colleen Klein is quick to set the record straight.
“No. It’s absolutely the opposite,” she said. “We are seeing even more donations.”
However, she did say that the foundation is still trying to pay off a recently purchased parcel of land, at the corner of Central and First streets in Buellton, which will be the future home of 15 low-income seniors.
“We still owe $750,000 on the property and we have five years to pay it off,” Klein said. “And if we don’t pay it off in time — well, I don’t really want to think about that. We need people to open their pocket books to this challenge.”
Klein also mentioned that most of the seniors her group helps live on about $1,000 a month.
Though economic times are trying for the majority of nonprofits and people in general, there are still plenty of ways to assist these organizations without breaking the bank.
“There are a lot of ways to help (People Helping People),” Palius said, citing volunteering time, donating canned goods or a turkey for the holidays.
He also suggested picking up things at the grocery store that are on sale and donating them to his group.
The kennel staff at the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society is always looking for staples such as dog toys, food and blankets. However, Pierce said “it’s best to call and see what the staff can specifically use.”
The Senior Citizens Foundation always has a need for volunteers to provide transportation and assist seniors in their daily activities.
The foundation also accepts any kind of donations to either of its two thrift stores.
Only time will tell if these and other nonprofits will be able to meet the demand for their services in the coming months.
“We don’t know because we’re just getting started,” Palius said. “But (the economy) is really affecting people. It’s scary.”
Reach Brook Matthews at firstname.lastname@example.org