SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – Some Bay Area charities and nonprofits report donations are down drastically due to the pandemic at a time when the demand has become dramatic.
“The need is growing because more people are without work,” said Sally Casazza, chairperson of the San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program, which donates toys to 31,000 children each year.
This year, Casazza said, it is harder to shop for toys to donate and also, money is tight.
“We are probably 50% down in donations with at least 20% more children in need,” Casazza told KPIX 5.
“The situation is pretty desperate right now,” said Nestor Fernandez, the executive director of Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center, also known as Tel Hi.
This year, the center had to adapt to COVID-19, canceling its in-person afterschool program and creating an all-day learning hub for San Francisco Unified School District students.
“A lot of our kids that we have right now are low-income kids,” Fernandez said. “We have several kids that are living in shelters, a couple that are homeless kids that don’t have the means to study from home, may not even have parents there to help supervise them. So we are actually their only way of staying up with their studies during this time.”
Fernandez said his staff is working long days, but donations are down 40% overall from last year.
A Taste of Tel Hi, the annual fundraiser which pays for only a portion of the center’s various programs, was conducted virtually through an online video service this September, raising $200,000. That is well short of last year’s total of $330,000.
Fernandez said he hopes people will step up and help the program.
“If people have some way of assisting us, especially financially, we’d love your support,” he said. “We need the support from the community to help us take care of other people that are living on the fringe. It’s critical.”
The pandemic has also impacted the Salvation Army. Bell ringers, iconic representations of holiday charity, are fewer in numbers right now. This holiday season, 50% of the businesses they asked to participate have declined due to the pandemic.
“Since the coronavirus hit, some of the stores were not comfortable having us outside,” said Pasadena Salvation Army Captain Terry Masango. “We are struggling to get donations to come through.”
Even though the ringers wear gloves and a mask and stand at a distance, the red kettles are running low on cash and coins.
Masango said this comes at a time when the organization is seeing a tripled need for social services in communities across the country.
The Salvation Army expects 6.6 million Americans will come to them for help in the next six weeks, but the charity organization may not be able to help as many people.
So this year, the Salvation Army has launched a campaign to rescue Christmas from the pandemic. They’ve introduced virtual red kettles where people can donate online.
“We collect those funds and we turn around and purchase food and purchase toys for the families who come to us for help,” Masango said.