Charities struggle to meet demand this holiday season

Posted December 13, 2010 2:34 p.m. EST
Updated December 13, 2010 7:47 p.m. EST

— Christmas is just around the corner, and local charities still need donations to provide holiday assistance for struggling families.

One in six North Carolinians lives in poverty, and with unemployment and underemployment still high, the need is greater than ever.

The Salvation Army distributes toys, money, clothing and food to ease financial stress on families, but this year, the organization has been forced to turn people away.

"We had a little over 200 new families this year, first time ever, apply for holiday assistance," said Debbie Avolin, director of social services for the Salvation Army in Durham, Orange and Person counties. "We're averaging over 40-plus calls a day (from) individuals we're having to turn away."

Employees at Triangle businesses donated thousands of toys for needy children, but it's just not enough.

"(Local businesses) have really come together again for us this year," Avolin said. "Everybody's resources are so limited... It's just a tough time for everybody right now."

In Wake County alone, the Salvation Army still needs 5,000 new toys for the children it serves. Kettle donations are on par with last year, but they fall short of the increased demand.

The Salvation Army isn't the only charity struggling to meet recession-era needs.

Food banks like the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle report that they are currently able to meet demand but may fall short when children are home from school around Christmas.

Jill Stanton Bullard, executive director of the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, said the organization expects to feed more than 5,000 people every day through the end of 2010.

"That's a lot of people in need," she said. "For the people we care about, the people we work with day in and day out, the recession's not over."