Charities dealing with increased demand and lower donations

Even as demand for their services spikes, local charitable organizations have seen a downward trend in donations. That’s one of the reasons organizations such as Woolwich Community Services and Community Care Concepts are grateful for supports from the United Way.

The United Way Waterloo Region Communities (UWWRC) recently distributed some $725,000 through its community general fund to 48 local agencies, including the two Woolwich-based ones, have seen demand for their services grow through the pandemic.

“The funds we received was through their general operating program, which meant we could apply funds to an area most in need instead of one specific program, which gave us a lot of flexibility. Over the past year we have determined to be an essential service, providing direct support to seniors – demand is continuing to climb and complexity of needs continues to climb, so that could include everything from Meals on Wheels to adult support programs,” said Cathy Harrington, executive director for Community Care Concepts. “Throughout the pandemic we never stopped providing in-person support.”

Community Care Concepts supports more than 5,000 residents across three townships, Wilmot, Woolwich and Wellesley.  Like other not-for-profits, they have been experiencing a downslide in their numbers of volunteers, that help distribute, run and organize community programs.

“During the pandemic we have experienced a temporary loss of many of our volunteers, who are starting to return, but we’re dependent on volunteers to provide the level of service that we do – some of the increased cost and needs is covered by the United Way funds.”

Some of the funds will also go towards protecting volunteers and staff by providing them with personal protective equipment and other COVID safety equipment.

“We are so grateful to the community for supporting us during the pandemic.”

Kelly Christie, executive director at Woolwich Community Services (WCS), has noticed an increase in demand, as well as more people accessing their programs long-term.

“The funding from the United Way helps to support our individual community support coordinator; that can be supporting residents with some housing information, getting them hooked up to our programs here, which can be the food bank and community gardens and Christmas goodwill, and all our  individual support programs. It’s just a variety of needs – the intensity it has increased here. It’s just not a simple short-term fix.”

Christie noted that the bond the agency creates with people is their most important attribute as a not-for-profit, as it allows them to feel like they can come back when they need help or assistance because costs may have got too high for them.

“They’re very fearful for their job security, if they have a job, or the ability to find a job. Fear of their rents going up, groceries are going to go up, and phone bills and hydro are going to go up,  and their income is not going to go up.  When they look into the future, they’re feeling fearful.”

The most accessed program right now at WCS is the food assistance programs. Christie noted that many residents in need are opting into food programs to save on grocery bills so they have more to spend as the cost of living continues to rise.

United Way in Waterloo Region received more than $1.5 million in requests for support from local agencies during the past application period. The general community fund is now distributed every three months to be more responsive to community needs. The agency was able to raise more than $14,000 during their recent 80 for 80 online auction to mark the organization’s 80th anniversary.

“We are so grateful for our community and the response we are getting via our fall campaign and things like our recent auction,” said CEO Joan Fisk in a statement. “As you can see, there is a discrepancy in funds available and the overall requests we receive on a quarterly basis. The real challenge is the need has increased and generally, donations to non-profits across North America have decreased.

“We’re doing everything we can to ensure our local agencies have the support they need going forward but this may be one of the most challenging times in our 80-year history. Just a little from a lot of people can help make a big difference in our community.”

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