Donations were significantly down this year for the Salvation Army serving greater Williamsburg, says Captain Debbie Bowers.
Fundraising for the organization is down about 25 to 30 percent across the board, she says. The Salvation Army hoped to raise $100,000 in its bell-ringing campaign, but fell $22,000 short of that goal. Bowers says the poor economy has definitely affected the Salvation Army – both increasing the need and decreasing the amount of donations.
“I think a lot has to do with the economy,” she says. “I don’t think people weren’t putting in, they just gave less. Even our regular donors are giving less because they have less to give.”
That will leave the Salvation Army with some hard choices to make, she says. The largest percent of the organization’s income is collected during the holidays and Bowers anticipates the Salvation Army will have to cut some services this coming year.
The Salvation Army provides assistance addressing a wide variety of needs, from youth programming to elderly assistance to disaster relief. A portion of its funding goes toward emergency assistance for people struggling to pay utilities; Bowers says the number of people seeking emergency assistance is up 20 to 30 percent over last year. “The bills are outrageous,” she says. “We’ve seen utility bills over $1,000.”
Each year, the Salvation Army also distributes gifts to the needy through Angel Trees. Angel Trees feature paper angels bearing the age, size and gift wishes of a person in need in the area; people can choose one, purchase the gifts and donate them to the Salvation Army for distribution. In the Williamsburg area, Bowers estimates the amount of people placed on Angel Trees went up by 5 percent this year. But because donations were down, fewer gifts had to be spread among more people. “We were able to help more people, but with less,” she says. “They may have gotten 12 things last year and this year, maybe eight.”
Volunteerism, however, has increased. Bowers says more churches requested Angel Trees and more people asked to be bell ringers. She believes people still want to do some good, even if they can’t financially support the organization. “This is one of the most generous communities I’ve been in and they’re still generous,” she says. “They’re giving what they can.”
Bowers believes the community agencies will have to work together to weather the economic storm. “We all need to pull together and do what we can to help them,” she says. “We really do have a great working community; everyone works together to get those needs met. There’s got to be a solution somewhere.”