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Wall Street woes touch nonprofits

Nonprofit administrators across the Triangle are watching the plunging stock market with worry, as the financial crisis is likely to hit nonprofits on several fronts.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Nonprofit administrators across the Triangle are watching the plunging stock market with worry, as the tightening economy hits nonprofits with fewer donations and more demands.

To talk about ways to deal with the tough times, Urban Ministries held a special meeting of its board members Wednesday evening.

“We like to say our food has a very short shelf-life,” said Anne Burke, executive director of Urban Ministries of Wake County.

Urban Ministries runs an open-door clinic and food pantry. Hard financial times has led to tough choices for the organization that is built on giving.

“We used to give families two full weeks' worth of groceries. Now, we're back to a week to 10 days, to stretch it out a bit further,” Burke said.

Burke says her major concern is money to keep the facility operating. She says the clinic gets about 100 calls a day from people who have lost their jobs and health care.

Even the doctors who volunteer their time at Urban Ministries are cutting back, Burke says.

“If he's having to work more hours and see more patients, he or she is not available to come down here to volunteer,” Burke said.

Burke says Urban Ministries depends a lot on the faith-based community, but even churches are cutting back. The nonprofit recently received a letter from a church that was a regular contributor.

“They sent us a letter saying, 'We’re going to have to stop contributing'" until their members give more money into the church because the church is not meeting its own budget, Burke said.

Urban Ministries is not the only nonprofit looking closely at budgets and staffing. Other charities, like the Salvation Army, are trying to figure out where the money to provide the next warm meal will come from.

“The last thing we want to do is not feed the people who need it, or not house the women and children who need shelter, or not give financial assistance,” said Paige Bagwell, director of operations and communications for the Wake County Salvation Army.

Bagwell says donations are down at the same time that the demand for services is up. The shelter's food line has doubled to about 150 people a day over the last year or so. The waiting list for women and children needing shelter has also jumped from the usual 25 to around 80 families.

“We need a good Christmas,” Bagwell said.

For the Salvation Army, Christmas is an important fundraising season, with programs like the bell-ringing kettle collection, Coats for the Children Telethon and toy drives.

Like many charities, the Salvation Army is hoping this Christmas, more than ever, really is a season of giving.


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