Southern California nonprofits are stressed to the breaking point as the need multiplies exponentially while donations and volunteers trend downward as a result of the coronavirus shutdown.
One way to correct this imbalance is to raise money, which is the crux of a nationwide effort on Tuesday, May 5, backed by several large foundations behind #GivingTuesdayNow, an online fundraising push in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With more than 22 million Americans out of work due to safer-at-home quarantines and widespread business shutdowns, the economic stoppage has resulted in millions of outstretched hands looking for food, clothing, rent money and more, straining the budgets of 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States.
“Never has there been a more important time to highlight giving,” said Elise Buik, executive director of United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “The need is exponential.”
First-responder charities — overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of hungry and homeless at their doorstep — have pivoted, increasing service days, forming new partnerships and, when all else fails, passing the hat among themselves.
The food pantry at the Congregational Church of Chatsworth in the west San Fernando Valley has seen a 400% increase in requests, coupled with a 50% drop in food donations. Yet they’ve increased from Saturday-only hours to Monday-Saturday food box pickup days and Sunday by-appointment-only, said Kim Olsen, co-administrator.
How is this possible?
“We are delaying payments whenever possible,” she said. “We owe money and are in the red.” They are banking on more donations from #GivingTuesdayNow, an extension of Giving Tuesday, the first Tuesday after Black Friday kicks off holiday sales.
Also, since mid-March, the church has increased its runs to the LA Regional Food Bank by borrowing a truck from a local restaurant. The local Kiwanis Club organized a backyard citrus drive. “They came back with a truck load of oranges,” Olsen said.
Because each food box is balanced with meat, starch and vegetables, the pantry often doesn’t have enough of each. Olsen said pantry co-administrator Ana Cardenas went to the grocery store and bought enough pasta to complete the baskets — using her own money.
Mid-sized nonprofits often press the flesh at banquets and silent auctions, or ask people for sponsorships at jog-a-thons and golf tournaments. But the no-gathering rule has forced them to cancel such key events.
“These nonprofits have seen their fundraising disrupted,” Buik said. “Because a lot of fundraising is done face-to-face.”
For example, Children’s Fund, serving families experiencing poverty and children who are abused living in San Bernardino County, has canceled two fundraisers plus a golf tournament.
The cancellations dropped the charity’s budget by $300,000 to $400,000, said Cid Pinedo, president and CEO, on Friday, May 1.
This has resulted in less help to those who have been furloughed during coronavirus-related closures and therefore can’t pay their rent. The group averages $10,000 a month in rental and utility assistance but that’s dropped to about $4,000 to $6,000, Pinedo said.
“It hurts to hear social workers call in and say they have a client in which their family is struggling or a mom can’t get formula for her baby,” he said.
Children’s needs often fly under the radar. One of the most pressing is for diapers, said Mandy Hyde, fund development manager for the Junior League of Riverside Inc. on Monday, May 4.
Her group runs a diaper bank that before the pandemic helped between 50 and 75 children per month. Last week, they distributed packages of diapers to 276 children in both Riverside and San Bernardino counties. This week and next, she expects to surpass that number.
The group has a need for 10,500 diapers yet there’s only 5,000 left in their stockroom. Junior League orders diapers at a large discount from manufacturers. It hopes to raise about $5,000 Tuesday to buy more and keep children clean and dry through August, Hyde said.
“We found a niche that needs to be filled and we are here to do it,” Hyde said on a video release. To donate cash or diapers, or to arrange for a pickup during a distribution day, call the Junior League at 951-683-4088 or send an email to: email@example.com.
Nonprofits that help people find affordable housing or give out motel vouchers are already caught between a housing shortage and not enough funding. The pandemic has added to an already complex problem, said Kyra Stewart, executive director of Family Service Association of Redlands.
“We are seeing a huge increase in food requests and also in motel vouchers,” she said on Friday. Now the group is handing out food boxes every week but she shudders to think about what a loss of $250,000 from canceled fundraisers will do in the next several weeks and beyond.
“Obviously we are heading for a recession, so grants (from foundations, businesses and corporations) could be the first thing that may be lessened or reduced,” said Stewart, whose group serves 2,000 families annually. Donations can be made 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays by appointment only at their location, 612 Lawton St., Redlands. Call 909-793-2673 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rev. James Pike of Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Huntington Beach thought it was a good time to form a nonprofit. Shortly after stay-at-home orders were issued, his church started getting phone calls from seniors who needed food but couldn’t or feared going to the store.
He formed a partnership with Waste Not OC Coaltion, a group that recovers unwanted food and gives it to food pantries, the city of Huntington Beach and Care Connections Network. After getting a $20,000 grant from Lutheran Disaster Response for the food program, his new nonprofit served about 850 vacuum-packed meals to seniors in Huntington Beach, Seal Beach and Santa Ana weekly since the end of March, he said on Friday.
Pike joined the nonprofit world during the time of greatest need. But now, he’s feeling their pain.
“Now that we got it started we are running out of money. We are near the end,” he said. Without an infusion of cash, he’ll have to shut his doors in two weeks, he said.
He’s eyeing an anonymous investor he said was an interesting person. “But it’s not a sure thing. People being interesting is not enough,” Pike said.
Others are finding creative ways to keep their food pantry or other kinds of community service from going under:
• Family Unity Center in the San Gabriel Valley has seen an eight-fold increase in food service despite a 50% drop in donations. In the past four weeks, the center delivered 2,800 boxes of food. The group has teamed with parks and recreation employees in nearby cities to help with packing and distribution. (Drop off food at 790 W. Chestnut Ave., Monrovia, and 191 N. Oak Ave., Pasadena, or visit www.foothillunitycenter.org for more information.)
• Families Forward in Irvine saw a huge drop in its food pantry volunteers. So it is using its counseling and career placement staff to pack food boxes. Its pantry has served 15,000 people since March 17, way more than the 6,000 people served for all of 2019, said Sarah Stokes, spokesperson.
• Stewart of Family Service Association enlisted 5,000 furloughed workers from the San Manuel Casino to help with the nonprofit’s food drive.
• United Way teamed with the LA Rams and the Black Entertainment Television to help raise $9.5 million toward a Pandemic Relief Fund, which is being distributed to front-line nonprofits.
“We do not want to see nonprofits close their doors. That’s not what we want to see happen,” Buik said.
Source: Orange County Register