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Tough economy pinches charities

Posted January 27, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

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— People facing tough economic troubles are showing up in larger numbers on the doorsteps of area nonprofits. At some charities, those asking for help have doubled while donations have declined. At others, even more support is not enough.

Ryan Coleman is one of those people needing help. The 21-year-old homeless woman is staying at the Helen Wright Center for Women as she tries to turn her life around.

"This works for now. It is a good place to come to,” she said.

Sinking economy hits nonprofits hard Sinking economy hits nonprofits hard

Last year, the center moved more than 100 women into apartments and found them work. Its 36 beds stay full, while the waiting list to get inside remains long.

Sometimes "we have to tell them we can't help them, and it is very, very painful," said Amanda Blue, case manager at the center.

The Wright Center is just one of the services provided by Urban Ministries of Wake County. Executive Director Anne Burke says a decline in donations and an increase in need has the nonprofit heading toward a financial emergency.

"We are not going to be able to meet our budget by about 15 to 20 percent,” Burke said.

The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina is also struggling, even though it has had a surge in donations.

"Our money donations and our food donations are up about 20 percent,” said Allen Reep.

While an increase of a fifth sounds good, the number of people looking for help from some food banks is up 60 percent. Last year, 32 million pounds of food were distributed. This year, the need is more.

"We are seeing more and more people needing help who have never needed help before,” Reep said.

For people unable to give financially, the charities say they could use your time. The Food Bank says volunteers have recently saved it hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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