The Rev. Imagene Stewart, founder of the House of Imagene in Northwest Washington, has $250 and not a penny more for the Thanksgiving Day feast she wants to prepare for the District’s downtrodden.
“Everybody gave to the September 11th,” she said. “I just feel so bad that after 30 years, we won’t be able to have Thanksgiving for homeless vets,” she added. “Please tell the people we need help.”
These sentiments are being expressed, publicly and privately, by many charities in the wake of the national outpouring of $1.3 billion to September 11 relief funds. However, there’s no way to know for sure if relief is really on the way, specialists said.
“Is there any concern that because of this huge outpouring of support we’ve seen in the last seven to eight weeks, that it might curtail those necessary donations around the holiday period?” Rep. Kenny C. Hulshof, Missouri Republican, asked Salvation Army Lt. Col. Tom Jones at a recent congressional hearing on September 11 charity oversight.
“I sometimes think people think the Salvation Army just mushrooms out of the ground on Thanksgiving Day with a kettle and then goes to sleep until Groundhog Day,” Col. Jones said lightly. “But the truth is, we’re in business 365 days a year.”
In previous years, when disasters struck, Col. Jones said, “Christmas giving went up because people were reminded and saw first hand the work of the Salvation Army being done.
“However, in this disaster, which is unprecedented in both what happened and with the fund raising, there is some concern on the part of the Army whether there are still dollars in the hands of people who would want to give it.
“Having said that,” Col. Jones added, “we have great faith in the generosity of the American people.”
Charitable fund raising that wasn’t related to September 11 “was dead for a month,” Jay Parker, president of Jay Parker Associates and a board member of the Salvation Army, said Friday.
For several weeks, charities “couldn’t even make a pitch,” and then direct-mail appeals were stopped when anthrax contamination was found in the mail, he said.
“Things are starting to pick up,” Mr. Parker said, adding that people typically give to charity by the end of the year to avoid paying higher taxes. But a lot of charities’ budgets have “really taken a hit,” and what was lost during that three-to-five week period “will never be recouped,” he said.
Dan Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy, was even blunter in his comments before Thursday’s hearing before the House Ways and Means subcommittee on oversight.
All the charities raising money for September 11 relief especially the Red Cross and September 11th Fund “need to be more cognizant of how their aggressive fund-raising efforts impact non-disaster charities,” Mr. Borochoff said.
Americans typically give “about 2 percent of their income,” and “income is in decline due to the faltering economy,” he said. “Therefore, many social and human service charities are receiving fewer donations while being asked to provide more services to people who have lost their jobs or are abusing drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with fear of terrorist threats.”
A poll taken in early October by Independent Sector offered some hope for charitable fund raising this year: Seventy-three percent of people who gave to September 11 relief campaigns said they expected to keep giving to charity. Fourteen percent said they would give “even more” than normal.
However, 26 percent of those who gave for September 11 said they had given all or almost all that they could, according to the poll of 1,009 adults taken by Wirthlin Worldwide.