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Charities hurt by decline in donations

Local organizations say demand is higher than ever while gift-giving has been sluggish this holiday season.

By MOLLY MOORHEAD
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 3, 2002


By the first week of December, Jean Timmons usually has a stack of boxes in her office filled with donated Christmas gifts ready to be given to needy children.

On Monday she had a single toy.

Giving to charities is down nationwide while the need is increasing, and that trend is evident in Pasco County. On Monday two women called the St. Petersburg Times' Dade City office seeking holiday help for their children.

Timmons, assistant director of Holy Ground homeless shelter in Hudson, said 2002 has been difficult overall, with fewer donations to spread among more needy families.

"We're completely down this year," she said. "It just seems like we're having more and more homeless people."

Dan Johnson, director of development at Christian Social Services in Land O'Lakes, said many of those seeking help this year have never needed it before.

"People who could donate at one time are now finding that they could use a little help," he said.

His organization -- which will give out toys and meals for Christmas -- is feeling the crunch, too. It had to endure months of construction on U.S. 41 this year that limited access to the thrift store, its main source of money.

At the Salvation Army in Port Richey, need is greatest for food.

Jeannie Coulter, manager of the group's Center of Hope, said she has collected 87 turkeys and hams but needs more than 400. In a typical year, Coulter said, she would be more than halfway to the goal by now.

In addition to the unsteady economy, Coulter said the calendar might have an effect on the dearth in giving.

"I think with Thanksgiving being late it did make a little bit of a difference," Coulter said.

But Coulter is confident the center will meet its goal for toys. "We're pretty well on target with that," she said.

Holy Ground, in its 11th year, will provide gifts and dinner to all of its residents on Christmas. Timmons said the shelter is short on every kind of donation, including food, clothes, toys and money.

But she, too, will find a way to meet the need.

"If I have to take my retirement check, they'll have a Christmas," she said.

-- Molly Moorhead can be reached at (352) 521-5757, ext. 29; or toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6108, then 29. Her e-mail address is moorhead@sptimes.com .

How to donate

Salvation Army 8040 Washington St., Port Richey (727) 847-6321

Holy Ground 8835 Denton Ave., Hudson (727) 863-9123

Christian Social Services 5514 Land O'Lakes Blvd., P.O. Box 783 (for mailing checks), Land O'Lakes, FL 34639 (813) 995-0088

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