- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 5, 2005

ATLANTA — The unprecedented American outpouring of tsunami-relief donations has some charities fearing a phenomenon they saw after the September 11 attacks — a drop-off in contributions for soup kitchens, shelters, museums and other ordinary needs closer to home.

“There’s no question in my mind it will be impacted — we saw what happened in 9/11,” said Paul Kane, an executive with United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York. It helps the needy nationwide and saw donations fall $2 million below projections in 2001 when contributions poured in to September 11 charities.

U.S.-based relief agencies have received more than $200 million in donations from individuals and corporations for victims of the tsunami disaster. Some charities say it is too early to see any effect on giving to organizations not involved in the relief effort, but they have a good idea of what is going to happen, at least in the short term.

“If people are giving more and more to disaster relief, there is obviously fewer dollars that may be otherwise committed to other charitable organizations,” said Philip Coltoff, chief executive officer of the Children’s Aid Society of New York, which relies on donations for half its $75 million budget.

To help counter a potential dip in its fund raising, Alexandria-based Volunteers of America is sending out mailings to its previous donors reminding them that the hungry and homeless in the United States still need help.

“Let’s not forget all of the important issues back home,” said Kathleen Rae King, the group’s vice president for development.

Even relief organizations helping the tsunami victims in Asia and East Africa — among them, Doctors Without Borders and CARE USA — are urging people not to overlook other parts of the world.

Such major emergencies “do cause us to want to remind people not to lose sight of the many places around the world that are in great need,” said Debra Neuman, spokeswoman for CARE.

Miss Kane’s group and others such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of America say the tsunami relief effort could have a long-term positive effect for them. They have seen donations increase since 2001, and credit the September 11 attacks with educating people about the need to help all kinds of charities.

It seems “these awful events kind of shake people up and make them say, ‘Maybe I should be doing more in the community or be helping financially,’” said Jan Still-Lindeman of the Atlanta-based Boys & Girls Clubs.

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