Drop In Donations, Increase In Requests For Aid Squeezes Salvation Army
Undated (AP) _ A surge in the number of needy seeking help and a sag in donations have left the Salvation Army struggling in some areas to give its traditional Christmastime food and toys to those who seek them, officials say.
″We’re not walking the walls yet, but we’re beginning to get a little concerned,″ said Lt. Col. William Himes, divisional commander for the Salvation Army in Detroit.
″We do have more people we’re taking care of this year than last year. We were also about $100,000 in below the same period this time last year in contributions,″ he said. ″... When the economy is doing good, contributions go down. When people are hurting, there is a willingness to share blessings with others.″
In Boston, a Salvation Army official’s comment that the group might have to start turning people away brought in a rush of contributions Tuesday. But in Cleveland, officials did cut off new applicants for Christmas aid Monday, at least for the time being.
Lt. Col. Leon Ferraez, the group’s national communications director in Verona, N.J., said Tuesday 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, and ″we think we have an even larger percentage of increase in 1985.″
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 manned by Salvation Army bell-ringers ″seems to be a little bit up, but the general income is down,″ he said. Spot checks from the first week of the Christmas donation season show that mail donations were down about 8 percent, he estimated.
But 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.
In the Cleveland area, Capt. Donald MacMurdo said, the Salvation Army there stopped taking applications for Christmas food baskets as of late Monday. ″We’ll have to wait until tomorrow night to see how we stand,″ he said Tuesday.
″We have a definite lag in donations right now,″ said MacMurdo. ″We’re well behind last year. We’ve been saying all along that people are still hungry the day after Christmas.″
However, he 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.
Maj. Ted Morris, director of the Salvation Army in Dallas, said that applications for holiday aid - chiefly for Christmas 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 so far, which include the distribution of 9,100 Christmas checks, he said.
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.
″All through the year we’ve had an increase in people asking for food,″ Bergen said Tuesday. ″We’re going to meet the needs one way or another.″
One area where the Salvation Army was holding its own was New York. Craig Evans, spokesman for the Salvation Army’s Greater New York Division, predicted that the agency would serve 5 percent more people this holiday 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.″
Boston’s Salvation Army officials were also sounding a happy note Tuesday, just one day after they had expressed fears that people would be turned away.
As a result of 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, said spokesman Steve Capoccia.
″We haven’t had to turn anyone away″ as feared, he said. ″It came down to the wire. We don’t like to alarm people. We just didn’t have anything else to give away.″