Most Viewed Stories
Givers needed more than ever
But can community provide for less fortunate in tough times?
For two local programs to provide much-needed aid at Christmastime, the need for their programs is growing — but not the donations to support them.
Toys for Tots and the Salvation Army have launched their annual toy drives for poor children and other programs for the holiday season. But with Christmas still six weeks away, directors of both efforts say they already must deal with the vise of more demand on one hand and tighter wallets on the other.
"We've had to work harder to get the story out, to talk to donors to help us and alleviate some of the things we're seeing," said Capt. Thomas Stambaugh of the Salvation Army's Yuba Sutter Corps. "Some of our supporters from past years may be coming to us this year for assistance."
Toys for Tots, run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, extended its donation period in anticipation of slowing contributions. Staff members at Goodwill Industries, a nonprofit training and career services provider underwritten by its namesake secondhand store chain, also reported a slowdown in contributions at its Yuba City branch from a year ago.
The charity efforts come at the dawn of what could become the nation's worst recession in a quarter century — in a region already battered by the drying up of construction-related jobs with the collapse of California's housing market.
With donations now a harder sell, local Toys for Tots planners found another way to compensate — extend the season for giving. Collection barrels appeared at local businesses Nov. 6, three weeks before the group's usual Thanksgiving-weekend launch date.
"We realized this was going to be a slow year, so we started a lot earlier so we could hit the ground running," said John Black, coordinator of Yuba-Sutter's Toys for Tots campaign. Despite the economic downturn, he hoped to help local agencies donate gifts to as many as 3,000 children, about 500 more than in 2007.
The Salvation Army's Christmastime efforts include a toy collection drive of its own, which aims to bring presents to about 1,700 children — along with gifts of chickens and food boxes for low-income families to put together holiday meals.
But Stambaugh, who arrived in July to take over its local operations, said economic woes already are affecting the group's year-round programs. For instance, the Salvation Army recently cut its utility bill assistance to poor families from $300 to $200 a year after losing various grants, including a $30,000 state payout axed in September from California's budget.
"We don't ever want to turn anyone away," said Stambaugh. "But we have to take that pie and divide it into smaller portions."