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Salvation Army’s red kettles not full

Wed., Dec. 31, 2008

Charities hopeful with need rising

Despite a weakened economy and bad weather, charities continue to be hopeful about donations this holiday season.

The Salvation Army, which depends heavily on donations from holiday shoppers, collected less money than expected leading up to Christmas, spokesman Capt. Kyle Smith said in a press release.

“Red kettle donations provide almost a third of our annual income, and so far contributions are lower than we hoped,” Smith said.

But Karen Seitz, Salvation Army Spokane development director, said it’s too early to know how much the familiar bell-ringers raised.

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the busiest for charitable organizations, Seitz said.

The Salvation Army uses its money to feed and shelter people in need. Compared to the same period last year, “we are seeing about 300 more families a month using the food banks,” Seitz said.

The organization’s shelters have waiting lists, she said.

With a budget hole anticipated to hit nearly $6 billion, the state of Washington is warning of cutbacks in many agencies, including those that help the poor. Because of that, the Salvation Army and other charities expect to see more people in need of their services, Seitz said.

Nationally, most charities have seen a drop in donations, according to a survey this month by Charity Navigator, a nonprofit organization that tracks charity contributions. The group predicted a 15 percent drop in giving for 2008 compared to 2007.

Still, some have had large donations. In Seattle, Boeing employees tripled their giving to the Northwest Harvest Food Bank, Charity Navigator reported.

Spokane’s Ronald McDonald House is optimistic about meeting its financial goals for 2008, said Mike Forness, executive director.

The charity is turning its focus to 2009, including a big fundraiser set for Feb. 7, when the Gonzaga Bulldogs play the Memphis Tigers at the Ronald McDonald House Charities Classic, Forness said.

The goal for the Ronald McDonald House in 2009 is to reduce expenses, better inform the public about the charity’s work and provide more opportunities to contribute, Forness said.

From Christmas to New Year’s is the biggest donation week of the year for Catholic Charities in Spokane, said Loreen McFaul, public relations director. Seventeen percent of donors are non-Catholic – a percentage that rises about 1 percent a year, McFaul said.

Catholic Charities won’t know how it fared until January, she said. The organization is hopeful it will reach its goal of $750,000 for the year.

Catholic Charities is waiting to tally its Christmas collections and to learn about Washington’s budget cuts before it determines its 2009 budget. The organization runs on a 9 percent administrative overhead, with 91 percent of revenues going to those in need, McFaul said.

The Spokesman-Review’s annual Christmas Fund raised $562,804 this year. The money goes toward the Christmas Bureau, which provides gifts and food vouchers for families in need.

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