Charities See Growing Demands, Fewer Donations

by Cassandra Baptista

Boston charities are feeling the strain to meet a greater need for goods and services after two years of a difficult economy for non-profits and contributions of cash or goods.

“It looks like it’s a little tougher this year,” said Thomas Langdon, director of community relations and development for Boston’s office of The Salvation Army. “In past years, people really were stepping to the plate. We really haven’t been seeing that this year.”

There are few bills larger than $1 in the kettles these days. Based on the organization’s annual report statistics, the demand for more specific items and services has increased such as, meals, shelter, coats, and holiday gifts. For example, in the past year, the number of coats distributed increased reached 13,000. (Click for related story on goods donations and how you can help)

And he’s not alone. Wayne Pozzar, food acquisition associate at the Greater Boston Food Bank, has seen a decline in food donations. GBFB is a nonprofit organization that “distributes more than 30 million pounds of food annually…to a network of nearly 600 member hunger-relief agencies,” he said.

Pozzar explained that the organization’s 2008 hunger study found 90% of its member food pantries and soup kitchens agree that the demand in Boston is up.

“Companies seem to have less to spare,” he added. “Supermarkets are now putting out discount aisles.”

One measure of need is The Salvation Army served 1,189,694 meals so far this year—equal to almost two meals per Boston resident.

And to counter the projected decrease in donations, the Salvation Army put out kettles earlier this year, because of the increased need. But a different kind of donation came when representatives were setting up the kettles: 45 people offered not to donate, but to work.

“We’ve never experienced that before,” Landon said. “These are people who just can’t find work, so they’ll ring a bell for $8 an hour.”

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