This holiday season, charitable donations have gone down at a time when they are even more needed, said charity leaders.
“The economy took a hit on a lot of people,” said Floyd Kettering who founded the charity organization, Humanitarian Service Project in Carol Stream, with his wife, Karole, in 1979. Kettering said the organization has seen the need for donations “increase significantly” this holiday season.
“Monetary donations have gone down,” said Kettering, “We’ve seen a fallout of about 20 percent since 2008/2009.”
Researchers at investment firm Morgan Stanley agree, and said to “expect coal,” in a report released this fall, predicting “the weakest holiday since 2008.”
The report reads: “Total gift spending (ex. greeting cards, decorations) is expected to decrease 2.5 percent to $536.85, the first forecasted decline since 2008/2009.”
“Donors are the backbone of what we do here,” said Mark Schmeltzer, spokesperson for local Chicago youth shelter, Mercy Home. “It’s a huge time for giving.”
The number of needy families is rising alongside the U.S. debt clock and charities can’t always answer the call for help. In 2011, the Salvation Army was able to serve 4,263,622 people across the country and in 2012, was only able to serve 4,198,683 people—a 1.52 percent decrease, according to their annual report.
“While the economy is slowly showing signs of improvement, that recovery has yet to trickle down to low-income families, the homeless and those suffering most,” said Ralph Bukiewicz, divisional commander of the Salvation Army metropolitan division in a press release Monday. “More than one in seven Illinois residents is living in poverty, many of whom are children, and poverty is also on the rise in our suburbs.”
“My mother is a single parent and full-time student,” read one letter from a 16-year-old Lane Technical High School student. “She works when she can, and every penny she makes goes to bills… My little brother doesn’t understand right now, so I always tell her don’t worry about me and just make sure he’s happy.”
Amidst a struggling economy, some corporations have chosen to make sacrifices in order to continue donating to charities.
Employees from Microtek International Inc., a computer training company, attended the Letters to Santa kick-off event to pick up 40 letters for their colleagues. Rachel Risch and Blair Silvensky said their company is “scaling back their Christmas party” this year, and instead they are putting the money toward helping needy families.
“Our CEO actually does this with his family every year, and so it’s become something near and dear to him, and he wanted to bring all of us in,” Silvensky said. Risch explained each employee is allotted $100 per letter; in total, $4,000 will be donated.
Last year, about 20,000 letters were collected; half of which were not answered.
“There are always letters that don’t get answered,” said Reynolds. Reynolds told reporters the requests have been climbing year after year and it is expected that this year will trend in the same way.
Charities are hoping the season will take a turn for the better as the holidays progress. “We raise a significant amount of what we need for our budget in December,” said Schmeltzer, “You have to have a strong December. It’s really critical that Christmas and Thanksgiving are strong.”