Local News

Nonprofits fight to stay afloat in ripple effect of unemployment

Posted March 1, 2011 4:20 p.m. EST
Updated March 1, 2011 7:51 p.m. EST

— Despite encouraging signs that the economy is improving, nonprofit organizations in central North Carolina are still feeling the effects of 9.7 percent unemployment. 

According the United Way, one in four people in the Triangle rely on the nonprofit for help, and supply falls far short of demand. United Way donations in the Triangle have dropped by $1.5 million since 2007 and requests for assistance jumped 30 percent from 2008 to 2009, spokeswoman for the organization said.

"It sounds like the perfect storm, doesn't it?" said Angie Welsh of the Triangle United Way. "We're seeing more need for basic needs services, for health care, for mental health care and really the whole range."

Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, a nonprofit that provides food for Urban Ministries of Wake County and other groups, has seen an increase in food donations, but rising gas prices are still keeping them behind the curve.

The majority of agencies served by the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle experienced a 30 to 70 percent increase in people needing food this year, said a spokeswoman for the organization.

"They are turning people away. They are cutting down their days from six days to three days because they can't feed the need," said Melissa Wajnert Hartzell of the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle.

The organization has a waiting list 27 agencies long, Hartzell said.

She said there are numerous examples of agencies served by the food shuttle being forced to scale back dramatically.

In Chatham County, she said, the closings of Joan Fabrics and Pilgrim's Pride plants, have sent unemployment skyrocketing, but the food pantry there had to cut back its hours of operation from six days a week to three because they didn't have enough food to go around.

One positive is that the United Way and other area nonprofits have seen a marked increase in volunteers, Hartzell said.