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Charitable giving down this season

December 21, 2003|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

Charitable donations in Franklin County are down during this holiday season, but services are not in danger of being cut back, say directors of several local organizations.

United Way of Franklin County kicked off its annual fund-raising campaign at the end of September, and contributions are lagging behind last year.

Executive Director Cindy Hawbaker said that the agency is two-thirds of the way to its $700,000 goal.

"Usually, we're three-quarters of the way to our campaign goal by this time of year. We cut the goal back this year, realizing there were business closings and downsizings," she said.

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"We're hopeful the final $200,000 is coming in."

Raising nearly three-quarters of a million dollars is "a substantial effort," Hawbaker said. "Local agencies rely on this to keep their doors open."

Contributing to the downturn in contributions is competition.

"Lots of organizations are doing an end-of-year appeal," Hawbaker said. "There are many more needs in our community, and people are being asked to donate by a lot more sources."

Hawbaker also noted that many businesses are no longer locally-owned, and it takes time for corporate offices to respond to the appeal.

Both individual and corporate donations are slow this year.

"People and businesses are still trying to recover from the slow economy," Hawbaker added. "Other charitable organizations have noticed that the donations are not as fast to come in toward the end of the year as they used to be."

The United Way's goal is based on the needs of local agencies, Hawbaker said. "It's not a pie-in-the-sky number."

According to a news release from Robert Weagly Jr., kettle coordinator for The Salvation Army in Chambersburg, the group is $30,000 short of matching last year's kettle campaign contributions, with only four days until the bells stop ringing.

All contributions to the chapter are used locally. Franklin County Shelter for the Homeless in Chambersburg relies on donations from area churches, groups, business and individuals to supplement the state, federal, and local funding it receives, according to case manager Trudy Wesley.

"In-kind donations are up," she said. "Money is pretty much down; we're not where we should be as far as cash donations."

Wesley attributes the decline to the economy.

"People can't do what they used to do. This will probably affect our budget. We'll have to watch overtime."

The shelter is always full at the holidays, she added, with 23 people in residence.

Candy Bennett, director of the Antietam Humane Society in Waynesboro, said the organization relies "100 percent on donations."

Money coming in during the holidays is about the same as last year, she said, "which was a little off from the year previously. We're a little on the low size. But it's good, considering all the factors of the economy being low."

This has not caused any cutbacks in services.

"We keep doing what we do," she said.

Although the Association for Retarded Citizens (ARC) receives funding through the county, not everything is covered, said director Lorrie Barrows.

"We haven't seen a whole lot of donations. They're down," she said.

Donations are used to help support the ARC's advocacy program and to supplement the budget.

"We run fund-raisers in the spring, and the bulk of donations comes in then," Barrows said.

"But the past two years we got more than we have recently. People give to us in different ways, often for a specific event, which is fine, too. We encourage people to contribute to United Way, as we receive funding through them."

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