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Charities Report Mixed Success In Holiday Fund-Raising

December 19, 1988

Undated (AP) _ Americans’ generosity is being tested this holiday season as they respond to both the tragic earthquake in Soviet Armenia and needs at home that appear greater than ever.

By at least one measure - United Way’s projection for the year of 6 percent to 7 percent growth - donations nationwide appear to have increased.

Charities in many communities say contributions of money, clothing, toys and food are at least keeping pace with last year and should pick up this week before Christmas.

But in other cities, contributions have dropped, hampered by cold weather, a shortage of bell ringers, shopping malls that banish fund-raisers from entrances, weak local economies, or even a drain on givers from campaign contributions earlier this year.

Efforts to aid the victims of the earthquake in Soviet Armenia appear to be having an impact on domestic giving in some cities, but not in others, say spokesmen for the Salvation Army, American Red Cross, Volunteers of America, United Way, food banks and other charities.

In Massachusetts, with an Armenian population estimated at more than 60,000, most charity officials said it is too early to tell whether that has cut into local giving.

But at the American Red Cross, the tragedy appears to have prompted an across-the-board increase in giving, said Philip Schuyler, manager of operations, planning and development in Boston.

″The response has been the greatest I’ve ever seen in 18 years,″ he said. ″They’re giving to both situations - the homeless here, the hungry in Armenia.″

Among the nation’s biggest cities, collections were reported up in New York, Chicago, and Atlanta, but down in Los Angeles. In the Midwest, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Mo., and St. Louis reported healthy donations, while Minneapolis, Detroit and Iowa’s cities were having a more difficult time. And in the West, Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz., showed drops, while Denver and Salt Lake City charities said their contributions were on target.

In Dallas, the Dallas Morning News Charities reported its drive was ahead of last year’s pace, but the Salvation Army said its cash donations are down, part of the continuing impact of the oil bust.

Money is tight in oil-linked Oklahoma City, too, Maj. Ralph Morrel of the Salvation Army said last week, when collections were running about $50,000 below what they were a year ago at the same time.

″I understand from a lot of merchants that people aren’t spending as much money,″ he said. ″And when they spend money, they give it away. When the merchants have a good year, we have a good year.″

In Detroit and Newark, N.J., the story is much the same. Giving is down by at least $60,000 over last year for the Salvation Army in Detroit, and officials blame the election year, a fluctuating stock market and a skepticism born of the television evangelist scandals.

In Newark, says Thelma Cloude, director of the Greater Newark Social Services and Correction Bureau, the problem is that many workers are falling further and further behind.

″This year, with the upsurgence of the working poor, those who used to help us now need help themselves,″ she said.

The Society of St. Vincent dePaul, Portland (Ore.) Council, took in 13,000 pounds of canned food less than last year’s total of 187,000 pounds, said executive director Tim Hornbecker. ″I think people have not increased their earning power.″

In Minneapolis, contributions to both Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army are flagging.

″Our suspicion is that there’s a lot more competition for the charity dollar. A lot of social service programs are going after money because of all the cutbacks for welfare,″ said Robert Miller of Catholic Charities.

A manpower shortage has caused donations to drop in other areas.

Iowa’s strong job market, with unemployment at 3.5 percent, has cut into volunteers.

″You hate to think that’s a bad sign for us in kettle season . .. We’re struggling to find help,″ said Lt. Jesse Collins of the Salvation Army in Marshalltown, where only half the usual 15 bell ringers could be mustered.

In New York, the Volunteers of America is pulling in more money from major donors and mail contributors, but its sidewalk Santa campaign is not doing as well as had been expected, said John Hartman, the group’s development director.

″I’m not sure I know why we have a shortage″ of Santas, he said. ″But it is a grueling job. The Santas are usually out on the sidewalk from 8:30 in the morning to 8:30 or 9 o’clock at night, in all kinds of weather.″

The presidential campaign drain has been a problem, said fund-raisers in Southern California, where Salvation Army donations for the eight-county region are running 15 percent behind their 1987 rate.

″The fact of the matter is that we usually suffer every four years when there’s an election,′ said Russell Prince, the army’s director of development in Southern California. ″We got hurt in ’84, but we’ve seen it this year more than ever. They’ve gotten more sophisticated in their direct mail fund-raising techniques and it’s hurt us this year more than ever.″

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