Charitable donations down
PATTI SILVA sorts food Wednesday morning in FISH’s temporary home at Hanna Boys Center.
Although the needs continue to grow, charitable donations are harder to come by this Christmas.
Many nonprofits organizing food, coat or toy drives said they have seen fewer contributions this year. “I would say we’re considerably lower than where we were last year,” said Linda Stevens, who is organizing the Christmas food basket giveaway for Friends In Sonoma Helping (FISH), which takes place this Saturday at Hanna Boys Center. Due to the construction at Hanna, FISH will hand out food from a large tent donated by Wine Country Party and Events.
Stevens said about 350 residents have filled out applications to receive a basket, which includes a variety of non-perishable side dish items, eggs, produce as well as a $10 gift certificate to purchase a main course of their choice at Lucky. They expect another 50 people will show up the day of the event without applications.
“If someone hasn’t filled out an application, they’re welcome to come by after 3 p.m. and take their chances,” Stevens said.
FISH spends weeks collecting food donations for the Christmas baskets, with numerous collection bins at locations across the Valley. Bell ringers could be seen outside of most grocery stores collecting cans of food and cash to cover the cost of the gift cards. But donations have been down in both departments, and FISH is struggling to fill all of the orders for Christmas baskets this year.
“We still have donations coming in, so I think we’ll be OK,” Stevens said. “Everyone will get their food.”
Stevens said there are still collection bins at a variety of Valley businesses, including the Index-Tribune, that will be picked up Friday. Donations can also be dropped off at the tent at Hanna until 4 p.m. today, Friday, Dec. 16. Stevens said the biggest needs are for traditional items such as dry pastas and canned vegetables, as well as produce such as potatoes, carrots and onions.
“Things people actually eat,” she said. “I don’t think we need any more cans of water chestnuts.”
The American Legion also saw a dearth of donations this year, during its Care Packages for the Troops campaign. During this drive, the Legion collects comforts such as toiletries, snack foods, games, socks and other items to send to servicemen and women in Afghanistan.
“I was really bummed because the reception we received was just the pits,” said Ron Grueber, who was helping to organize the drive.
He said the first year, the Legion was able to send 518 care packages. Last year, that number fell to 328, but this year has been the worst yet, with 184 packages sent.
“We’re about a third of where we were,” Grueber said, adding that the Legion isn’t done yet. “We’re sending out more stuff tomorrow.”
While the drive was supposed to end Dec. 1, there were so few donations that the Legion decided to leave the collection bins out another few weeks. It paid off, as several big donors came through at the last minute.
Not all drives have seen their numbers dip, however. Infineon Raceway, which organizes a Thanksgiving food drive in November, followed by a toy drive in December, said donations were about on par with last year.
In 2010, the raceway collected just over 10,000 pounds of food, while this year they brought in 9,657 pounds.
“Our toy drive was very successful,” said Denise Silver, spokeswoman for Infineon. “We had enough toys for more than 300 children to receive two toys each.”