Aid Requests Up But Donations Down, Says a Hurting Salvation Army
Undated (AP) _ The Salvation Army in Cleveland had to stop taking requests from poor people seeking Christmas aid and Army branches across the country are facing similar situations as donations drop and the ranks of the needy swell.
″We have a definite lag in donations right now,″ said Capt. Donald MacMurdo, spokesman for the Army in the Cleveland area. ″We’re well behind last year. We’ve been saying all along that people are still hungry the day after Christmas.″
The Salvation Army in Cleveland stopped taking applications for Christmas food baskets as of late Monday, MacMurdo said Tuesday. The group had hoped to help 12,000 families but cut off applications at 10,500.
Detroit was experiencing similar problems, said division commander Lt. Col. William Himes.
″We do have more people we’re taking care of this year than last year,″ Himes said. ″We were also about $100,000 below the same period this time last year in contributions... When the economy is doing good, contributions go down. When people are hurting, there is a willingness to share blessings with others.″
MacMurdo said he was optimistic that contributions would increase because Ford Motor Co. officials told him Tuesday that retired and unemployed workers at its three Brook Park plants had been soliciting contributions from those on the job and had raised at least $9,400.
In Boston, officials saw a similar surge in contributions after they said Monday they might have to stop accepting applications for holiday aid. Their comments brought enough donations on Tuesday to keep that from happening.
″We haven’t had to turn anyone away,″ spokesman Steve Capoccia said. ″It came down to the wire. We don’t like to alarm people. We just didn’t have anything else to give away.″
After Monday’s plea for aid, Zayre Corp. gave $6,000, a store gave 2,000 children’s hats, and thousands of people across the state donated food, money and winter clothing, Capoccia said.
Lt. Col. Leon Ferraez, the Salvation Army’s national communications director, said Tuesday from headquarters in Verona, N.J., that the number of people seeking shelter jumped from 1.9 million in 1983 to 2.45 million in 1984, counting both transients and resident homeless. ″We think we have an even larger percentage of increase in 1985,″ he said.
He didn’t have any precise figures on requests for aid other than housing, but estimated that it was up about 10 percent this year.
The Salvation Army, a religious group that is organized like a military unit, has about 1,000 centers to aid the needy and homeless, plus 9,000 smaller offices that can refer people to the larger centers, Ferraez said.
Money put in kettles staffed by Salvation Army bell-ringers ″seems to be a little bit up, but the general income is down,″ he said. Spot checks of the first week of the Christmas season showed mail donations were down about 8 percent, he estimated.
In some cities, even the kettle donations are down.
Rochester, N.Y., Salvation Army officials have lowered their kettle collection goal from $80,000 to $70,000 because of slumping contributions, said Lt. Andrew Murray. Last year, $78,000 was collected.
Some officials, such as Maj. Herbert Bergen, commanding officer of the Salvation Army in Knoxville, Tenn., said that one reason for a decline in donations this year is a shorter-than-usual Christmas shopping season.
″Part of the problem is that we’ve had five less days to ring our bells on the street this year,″ he said. ″That has really cut into our income.″
Maj. Ted Morris, director of the Salvation Army in Dallas, said that applications for holiday aid - chiefly for holiday toys and food - are expected to total 18 percent higher this year than last.
″We operate on faith″ that the last-minute giving will cover the expenses incurred, which include the distribution so far of 9,100 Christmas checks, he said. Last year, some 8,600 checks were given out.
One city in which the Salvation Army was holding its own was New York. Craig Evans, spokesman for the Army’s Greater New York Division, predicted that the agency would serve 5 percent more people this season than the 160,000 served last year.
″Traditionally, we’ve had excellent resources, and this year is no exception,″ Evans said. ″People have been very generous.″