[Hpn] Flood of cash for N.Y. leaves other charities dry

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Mon, 15 Oct 2001 11:02:12 -0700


St. Petersburg Times,
published October 14, 2001

Flood of cash for N.Y. leaves other charities dry

©New York Times

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In normal times, 100 donations a week flow into the Make-a-Wish Foundation
in Cleveland. But since Sept. 11, donations have dried to a trickle.

In normal times, 100 donations a week flow into the Make-a-Wish Foundation
in Cleveland. But since Sept. 11, donations have dried to a trickle.

"We're feeling the pinch bad, so we've eliminated one of our seven staff
positions," said Traci Felder, executive director of the foundation. "The
money just went away overnight, and it's not picking up. We used to average
about $2,500 a day. I don't have this week's figures, but Thursday, Oct. 4,
we got $370. We understand the needs in New York, but we're worried that
people are forgetting the needs locally."

While the relief funds created for the victims of last month's terror
attacks have been deluged with money, small community-based charities
throughout the nation are suffering. Fundraisers and direct mail campaigns
are bringing in less than expected, and some major givers are reneging on
their pledges, sending contributions instead to relief funds for New York's
victims. 

Small nonprofit agencies that help the needy -- food banks, battered women's
shelters, programs for the homeless and people with AIDS -- have been hit
especially hard. 

In Washington on Oct. 6, 5,000 people turned out for the annual AIDS walk,
compared with the 20,000 to 30,000 who usually show up -- and the walk
raised only $420,000, a far cry from the expected $1.2-million. Meanwhile,
direct mail fundraising for the Whitman-Walker Clinic, which sponsors the
Washington AIDS walk, dropped 50 percent in September.

"It's very serious," said A. Cornelius Baker, Whitman-Walker's executive
director. "Since Sept. 11, we've lost $1-million in revenues. We have to
begin trying to drain blood from a stone."

While Whitman-Walker has been the second-largest beneficiary of the local
United Way, that too may change: United Way officials said it was too soon
to tell how contributors in the current campaign would apportion their money
between local and New York needs.

"All the United Ways and all our agencies are nervous," said Tony de
Christofaro, a spokesman for the United Way for the National Capital Region.
"We're hoping people won't make either-or decisions, that they'll contribute
to their regular causes and then, above and beyond that, to the relief
effort." 

But for now, many donors seem to be favoring New York's relief effort at the
expense of local social service organizations.

"We're $300,000 behind in meeting our budget for the year," said Marilyn
Fountain of Star of Hope, which runs three residences for the homeless in
Houston. 

Also in Houston, the Spay-Neuter Assistance Program, whose clinics provide
free or low-cost sterilization for cats and dogs, had to cut its services 10
percent when its Sept. 29 fundraiser fizzled: Five large corporate donors,
whose names were included on the invitation, backed out at the last minute,
with one saying it could no longer support the program because the company
had sent $50,000 to the New York Red Cross.

At a time when the economy is faltering and needs are greater than ever,
Hawkins and others say the loss of support in the crucial year-end giving
season could seriously hamper their ability to provide services next year.

"I understand everyone giving to New York, out of grief and love and a sense
of powerlessness," said Pamela Altmeyer, president of the Gleaners Food Bank
of Indiana, whose fundraiser Friday was far smaller than planned. "Even I
sent money to New York. But at the same time, the layoffs here have really
increased the need for food. I know hunger and housing and all the
day-to-day needs are never going to look the same as this horrible, horrible
thing purposefully inflicted on innocent people. But I just don't know how
small charities are going to survive."

Already, many have had to tighten their belts. In Los Angeles, the Society
for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals laid off eight of its 55 employees
and closed one of its pet adoption centers on Oct. 1. Another is scheduled
to be closed Oct. 28.

"It's too soon to tell if the Christmas season will be completely lost,"
said Madeline Bernstein, the society's president. "We're hoping people
remember that the same things that were important to them before the attacks
are still important."

Last week, Habitat for Humanity laid off 35 employees and worked out a plan
with the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., a large contributor, to give the
full $2-million donation this year that it had planned over the next five
years. 

For social service agencies, next year's prospects look bleak. Making
matters worse, private foundations that have made unusually large grants in
recent years, bolstered by the booming economy, are likely to cut back,
given sharp declines in the value of their endowments.

Even in New York City, with about $850-million pouring into terror attack
relief funds, nonprofit programs that address other social needs are
suffering. At Gay Men's Health Crisis, which serves people with AIDS, direct
mail donations have been down 30 percent since the attacks, while the number
of new clients has doubled.

"We usually take in 100 new clients a month, but we're up to 200 in the last
30 days, with people using drugs more, or needing more mental health
services," said Ana Oliveira, the group's executive director. "The needs are
growing. But with the financial situation, we have to be cautious. We're
holding off on hiring new staff. We believe that the same kind of rebuilding
and bailing out being done through different sectors needs to happen in the
nonprofit sector too."
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© Copyright 2001 St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved

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