Economic downturn hits area charity hard
The pantry is almost empty, the kitchen closed, money is tight. The Salvation Army, corner of Strickland and Martin Luther King Jr. drives in Orange, is feeling the pinch of the current economy. It is just one of the local charities feeling the downturn and tightening their belts.
Maj. John Queener said in June, the amount of people requesting assistance has jumped 65 percent over the same time last year.
Donations are down over 55 percent for that same time frame.
“Sixty percent of the people that have come have lost their job in the last two months.”
The face of the needy has changed drastically and very quickly.
Queener said the people he is seeing are very motivated and are taking whatever employment they can find including fast food jobs to provide for their families.
The few employees that run the Orange location have all voluntarily cut their pay by eight hours and are shutting the doors on Fridays, but that is not enough to rectify the situation.
Queener stands in the pantry, with shelves that are being depleted quickly. Usually they stock the room from the food bank, but they don’t have the money and the food bank is also facing a reduction in inventory.
“We try to give enough [food] for three to four days, until they can get some food stamps,” said Queener. They are to the point of giving away gallon cans of food, which is normally used for the soup kitchen or to feed the kids in the club. “It’s bad when you have to apologize for what you give.”
They also give diapers, “if we have that size.” Queener said they used to have all sizes and could give a box, but now they can only give one package. Toiletries are also in short supply.
The freezer, which normally would be filled with meat, is completely empty.
“We’re still giving services,” he said, but the services are getting more limited each day.
Tanya Gaudet, the bookkeeping manager, has worked at the Salvation Army for 20 years said this is the first year they did not have the soup kitchen open during the summer. “Someone called yesterday to find out what days we were feeding,” she said.
They refer clients to Workforce.com or to “Miss Bobbie” at Friend Helping Friends when they can’t take care of the client’s needs.
The situation is starting to get critical and area charities need help more than ever. Gaudet says need normally increases 30-40 percent during the summer months, but they have seen the rise to 65 percent.
“We may have to re-open the food kitchen,” she said.
Queener said they will accept donations of any non-perishable food, money and volunteers.
Money is used to help people with rent and buy things they don’t get through normal donations.
“Most people don’t want to stop giving; they can’t.”