When it came to charitable giving this holiday season, the Spokane spirit was willing even if the economy is still weak.
Four of the Inland Northwest’s most prominent charities reported that donations during their Christmas fundraising drives fell shy of goals, but not for lack of caring.
“The money is down, but the volunteerism is up,” said Sheila Geraghty, business administrator for the Salvation Army of Spokane.
Although there was no shortage of bell-ringers this year, the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Drive collected about $333,000 locally, $14,000 short of last year’s take, according to Capt. Kyle Smith.
Smith, who rang a bell for 36 hours during Christmas week to break the world record, said he hoped the drive would collect $347,000 again this year, but given the weather and the economy, he couldn’t complain.
“This is a far more generous community than others I have been in, and I can’t thank Spokane enough for its support,” Smith said.
The Red Kettle Drive represents about 8 percent of the Salvation Army Spokane’s annual budget for such programs as the Emergency Family Shelter, Stepping Stones transitional housing, the food bank and Sally’s House emergency foster care.
Smith said every penny will count in the coming year when public grants are very much in doubt.
The December fundraising drive of Second Harvest of the Inland Northwest came up about $101,000 short of its goal of $430,000, said Kathleen Hedgcock, director of development.
Still, Hedgcock remains optimistic that the community will come through for Second Harvest as it extends its fundraising drive into January.
“We are really fortunate in Spokane,” she said. “People dig a little deeper when people are hurting.”
The December fundraising goal represents about 27 percent of the $1.6 million in community donations Second Harvest hopes to collect this year and 11 percent of its overall budget.
Second Harvest supplies food to a network of 275 neighborhood food banks and meal centers throughout Eastern Washington and North Idaho.
Those food banks have reported increases of between 10 percent and 50 percent in the number of people asking for help.
“We’ve increased our food distribution by more than 50 percent over the last two years to meet the increase in demand,” Hedgcock said.
Likewise, Catholic Charities of Spokane is hoping a second mailing next month will help close the gap between the $487,000 its Christmas Collection has raised so far and its goal of $750,000, or almost 6 percent of its annual budget.
“We are still in need of support, particularly for our most financially vulnerable programs,” said development director Ann Marie Byrd.
These include the House of Charity shelter for men, St. Margaret’s Shelter for women and children, and the Childbirth and Parenting Assistance program.
CAPA has seen a tenfold increase in the number of families seeking assistance, Byrd said.
So far this month, the Union Gospel Mission has raised $676,000, down about 6 percent from this time last year, according to Executive Director Phil Altmeyer.
However, Altmeyer said the mission had “an unbelievable last week” in 2009 to end the year with $830,000 in donations. He was still hopeful of approaching that sum this year.
Charities raising funds this holiday season noted that more and more they are seeing people asking for help for the first time.
“People who at one time were volunteers and donors are coming to us saying, ‘We are probably going to have to be in that Christmas Bureau line,’ ” Byrd said.
As for donations in the current economic climate, the charities said they are grateful for every dollar they receive.
“People are doing what they can, there is just less to give,” Hedgcock said.
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