Local charities find donations are down this Christmas

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Where is Winnipeg’s Christmas spirit?

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/12/2017 (1694 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Where is Winnipeg’s Christmas spirit?

Local charities operating holiday campaigns to help the hungry are finding their donation stockings emptier so far this season.

Winnipeg Harvest and the Salvation Army are reporting large drops in donations, the Christmas Cheer Board says it is running a bit behind but it is still positive, and Siloam Mission is praying the donations it still needs come during the next two weeks.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Salvation Army volunteer Roy Dueck stands with a donation kettle at Polo Park shopping centre Tuesday. The charitable organization is reporting a big drop in cash donations this year.

Kate Brenner, Winnipeg Harvest’s executive director and a longtime employee with the organization, admits her first Christmas campaign since the retirement of former leader David Northcott earlier this year is proving to be a difficult one.

“In all the years I’ve been here, I’ve never seen this happen,” Brenner said Tuesday. “One-third of our annual donations come in during December, and we’re way behind. We usually raise $1 million, and we’re just over $370,000 at this point.

“It’s pretty significant.”

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipeg Harvest’s Kate Brenner calls the drop in cash donations this month ‘pretty significant.’

Maj. Rob Kerr, the Salvation Army’s divisional secretary for public relations with the Prairie division, said donations put into the local Christmas Kettle campaign were at $185,000 on Monday.

“Our goal is $375,000, and we have increased a lot since Monday when we let people know,” Kerr said. “We’re at $225,000 now (Tuesday), but we still have a long way to go.

“The final day of our campaign is Saturday, but it is very encouraging what we have received so far.”

Kerr said the donations all have a local impact — especially in the geographic area where the kettle itself is located.

“If the kettle is in St. James, it goes to a St. James after-school program… If it is in St. Vital, it helps the Barbara Mitchell (Family Resource) Centre or our south location… If in the centre of the city, it helps our work-readiness program, which helps people prepare resumes or do a job interview,” he said.

“It also helps fill food hampers and food assistance at Christmas, but it’s not just Christmas. These donations help year-round.”

Both Brenner and Kerr say the recent downturn in donations isn’t just a Winnipeg phenomenon — it’s happening across the country.

Brenner said she first received the heads-up at a conference with Food Banks Canada in September.

“The major food banks came asking me if I’d seen the softening in food and cash donations that they had,” she said. “I said no we haven’t.

“We were fine in September, October, and November — we were even a bit ahead — but then December came,” Brenner said. “We’re still seeing donations from our major supporters and donors, but it is the $10, $20, and $50 donations from individuals that have seen a huge drop. That’s the difference.”

Kerr said Salvation Army kettles across the country have experienced a steep decline in donations — the annual Christmas campaign has raised more than $12 million, but that’s $9 million below its goal.

Kai Madsen, the Christmas Cheer Board’s head elf, said it’s hard to tell where the organization is at with donations because many are raised by outside groups. The board expects to send out more than 18,000 hampers this season.

Madsen said, so far, the Cheer Board itself has received $276,000 in donations, compared to last year’s $280,000 at this time. Its goal is $850,000.

“All I can say is I’m hoping what has happened in the past will continue this year,” he said. “I’m not worried, but if you wrote a cheque last year, please send another one this year — we are counting on it.”

Siloam Mission spokeswoman Kathi Neal said the holiday season is essential to the mission’s annual budget because it raises 30 per cent of its annual revenue during the month of December.

“We work hard all year, but the next two weeks are crucial,” Neal said. “Manitoba is the best philanthropic province in the country. We are optimistic, but we need our donors to come through for the rest of the month.

“These last two weeks are critical.”

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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Updated on Tuesday, December 19, 2017 8:45 PM CST: fixes links in fact box

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