11/08/09 — Local charities say need will be greater this year

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Local charities say need will be greater this year

By Laura Collins
Published in News on November 8, 2009 1:50 AM

Area soup kitchens and food pantries are beginning to prepare for Thanksgiving, and for some, the tough economy is bringing with it increasing need and decreasing donations.

Tammy Cartagena, executive administrative assistant at the Hispanic Community Development Center, said it has been months since she has seen food on their pantry shelves.

"We haven't really had anything for several months because donations are down. Normally, we have a lot of donations, and we can keep our food pantry really stocked," she said.

Ms. Cartagena added she began to see the decline in donations about eight months ago, but that does not mean there will be needy families turned away. The center still plans to give out Thanksgiving boxes, as it does every year. The boxes typically provide all the necessary items to make a dinner -- turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, cranberry sauce and pinto beans.

"This year, our goal is 100 boxes. Usually we meet our goal, but this year it's pretty slow," she said. "We're hoping it will pick up at the last minute."

In addition to the de-crease in donations, Ms. Cartagena said there has also been an increase in need.

"(It) started about six months ago," she said. "There's a lot more people out of work. People are losing their income and their jobs. It's harder for people to get jobs, and they're having a hard time providing their family with food in addition to their other bills."

The center is accepting donations for its food pantry and Thanksgiving boxes. The deadline to donate for the boxes is Nov. 21. To donate, call 736-0312.

Carolyn Buffalo, administrative assistant at the HGDC Community Crisis Center, said this year, instead of delivering meals the organization is preparing baskets.

"For the past 25 years, we usually prepare and deliver Thanksgiving dinners to the elderly. But this year, we are only doing baskets that people can come and pickup at the center," Ms. Buffalo said.

She added the center is not guaranteeing how many baskets will be available.

"What people donate to the center will dictate how much we give out. We don't have additional money, so we're relying on donations from the community," she said. "With whatever we are donated, the Monday through Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we will be preparing the baskets and families can come in and pick them up. Whenever we are out, we are out."

Ms. Buffalo added that the center is anticipating a large turnout for baskets.

"I really think the number of people seeking help will be greater. The soup kitchen number has increased over the month, and I feel the need is going to be greater," she said. "The volume will be higher, and we want to help as many people as we can. We care about the situation they're in, and we don't want anyone to be hungry on a day for giving thanks."

The Community Crisis Center is taking donations for Thanksgiving baskets. To donate call 734-6836.

At the Community Soup Kitchen, the news is a little better. Director Doricia Benton said food and supply donations are still coming in. While she is grateful for the holiday giving, she is concerned the donations might fall off after the holidays.

"There's always a need. Our numbers are really high right now, but July was our highest month," she said. "It is the holidays, and it's wonderful that people are giving, but there's a need year-round."

In July, the soup kitchen served 2,718 meals. So far this year, it has served about 25,000 meals and Ms. Benton expects to serve more than 30,000, an all-time high.

In 2008, the soup kitchen served 27,000 meals and in 2007 it served about 19,000.

On Thanksgiving, the soup kitchen will serve an afternoon "Thanksgiving feast." In addition to the meal, everyone will also be sent home with a takeout box to eat later for dinner.

The Community Soup Kitchen is accepting food and supply donations. To donate call 731-3939.