High fuel and utility costs, coupled with a shift in donations to other parts of the nation and world to meet needs caused by natural disasters, have charities here worried about whether theyll have the resources to serve Spokanes people in need this winter.
Spokane-area businesses this year have reached out generously to support victims of last Decembers tsunami in Indonesia and other coastal Asian nations and the recent hurricanes in the U.S. South, but an unintended consequence of that kindness is that less money might be available to give to local charities, even as their costs are rising.
Im concerned about compassion fatigue, says Maj. Ben Markham, who leads the Spokane unit of the Salvation Army.
November and December are the key fundraising months for the Salvation Army, says Markham.
Right now, Im holding my breath, he says. We can gauge how the community is thinking after the first week our Salvation Army kettles are put out, and theyll go out Nov. 18. In that effort, bell ringers posted strategically around the community collect money that people drop into Christmas kettles.
Abi Weaver, director of public assistance at the Inland Northwest Chapter of the American Red Cross, says, The pockets of the local people are only so deep.
The Red Cross here has forwarded $1.3 million of locally generated cash donations to its national headquarters for hurricane relief, another about $250,000 in donations for tsunami relief, and about $1,500 for earthquake relief efforts in Pakistan, says Weaver. She says the nonprofit is seeing early signs of the compassion fatigue Markham fears, and adds that the huge donations following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were followed by much smaller contributions to victims of Hurricane Wilma and the Pakistan earthquake.
Local Red Cross fundraising efforts are on track, including the annual Honoring Hometown Heroes event set earlier this week that was expected to raise about $74,000, but Weaver says shes concerned about how fundraising will go early next year.
Spokane County United Way President Vic Forni says his agency is in the middle of a fundraising effort and wont know for another three or four weeks if local giving has slowed. He says the United Way here raised about $4.5 million last year to support 34 nonprofit agencies ranging from Hospice of Spokane to the Boy Scouts.
Businesses here have opened their coffers to help victims of the disasters.
Empire Health Services, the big Spokane hospital operator, donated $500,000 to the American Hospital Associations Care Fund, which has underwritten efforts to help hospital workers in hurricane-hit areas provide much-needed medical care to victims, says Christine Varela, Empire spokeswoman. Empire also participated in a matching-fund program in which an about $90,000 check was written to the American Red Cross.
Other examples of the businesses and organizations that gave locally include:
Garco Building Systems, of Airway Heights, whose employees raised about $3,600. Our workers realize how fortunate we are and wanted to help others in their times of need, says company CEO Bill Savitz.
Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Inc., the Pullman-based power technologies company, which donated $100,000 to the Red Cross for hurricane relief and offered to cut by as much as 50 percent the cost of its products purchased by utilities to restore power in hurricane-effected areas, says Schweitzer spokeswoman Susan Fagan.
Spokane-based wood-products company Potlatch Corp., which is set to match the money raised by its employees$15,000 so farfor hurricane relief, and also sent $10,000 worth of building materials to Asia for tsunami relief efforts, says Potlatch spokesman Mike Sullivan. Like many corporations, Potlatch also is raising money for United Way, and expects this years drive to raise about as much as last year, he says.
Sullivan, who also is president-elect of the Special Olympics of Idaho, says he shares concerns about how much money will be available for donations to local causes due to the widespread tsunami-hurricane giving, and says Special Olympics is having a tough time raising funds this year.
Telect Inc., the Liberty Lake-based maker of telecommunications equipment, sent about $20,000 in matching employee-employer donations to the American Red Cross.
The Big Easy Concert House, of Spokane, in conjunction with the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce and the city of Spokane, raised almost $7,000 for Katrina hurricane relief through a free musical concert at which donations were accepted. Twenty percent of the proceeds from that event went to the Inland Northwest chapter of the American Red Cross, and 80 percent to the national chapter, says chamber spokeswoman Nicole Hillman-Stewart. Gary Marchant, Big Easys general manager, says more musicians than could play stepped forward to donate their time and talents.
The Salvation Armys Christy Markham has compiled a list of about 30 other local businesses, churches, and foundations that have contributed funds in support of hurricane relief, and 15 businesses that became donation-collection sites for such relief.
The Red Cross chapter here, which has a $700,000 annual budget and responds to people here in times of emergencies such as when someones home burns, is seeing some annual donors this year split their donations between the local and national Red Cross chapters, while others, responding to increased need, are making separate sizable donations to both levels, says Weaver. She says the local chapter will continue to serve people here even if money isnt available in the short term.
Well get the money, Weaver says.
Local need significant
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