Wake County

November 15, 2012

Wheeler: Charities, time to tell us what you need

The News & Observer is offering its Holiday Guide to Giving for the third year. Starting Friday, Triangle charities should fill out the online form listing the donations and volunteer hours they need.

Urban Ministries of Wake County provides a shelter for homeless women. Its Open Door Clinic serves 5,000 low-income clients. The nonprofit also offers programs that help the poor reach self-sufficiency.

But what is its greatest need right now?

Food.

“Our shelves are very low,” Anne Burke, executive director emeritus, says of Urban Ministries’ food pantry. “We’ve had nonstop demand day after day after day. We’re seeing 35 families a day, up about 10 a day over last year, a huge increase.”

It’s hard to imagine as we prepare to sit down next week to overstuffed Thanksgiving tables how many of our neighbors aren’t worrying about the best way to season a turkey or whether to attempt the fancy pie.

They’re worried about having anything to eat at all.

With the backdrop of North Carolina having the fifth-highest unemployment rate in the country, The News & Observer is offering its Holiday Guide to Giving for a third year.

Starting Friday, local charities should fill out the online form at nando.com/holidaygiving, listing what they need in donations and volunteer hours this holiday season for the communities they serve. The deadline is Wednesday, Nov. 28.

We’ll put the Guide to Giving on our website Dec. 2 so readers can see what charities need. We’ll also include a partial list in the print edition that day.

In 2010, we challenged readers to give $10,000 to the 137 charities that responded. You sent the amazing sum of $43,614.

Last year, our goal was $25,000, and you generously showered the community with more than $58,000 in donations.

Can we top $58,000 this year? Our state has the 13th-highest poverty rate in the nation; a decade ago, it ranked 26th. More than 40 percent of our children of color live in poverty.

Homeless veterans

Veterans returning from our foreign wars no doubt make up a measurable part of that increase. Jeff Smith of the Veterans Leadership Council says that, between Fayetteville and Jacksonville, North Carolina has the highest concentration of homeless veterans in the nation.

“The number of homeless vets seen at VA facilities continues to go up,” he says. “In 2009, the VA in Durham reported seeing about 1,100 homeless vets. In 2010, that was up to 2,300. In 2011, it was 4,200, and this year it was more than 6,000 – and that was before the force drawdowns. Next year, it will be even worse.”

The Veterans Leadership Council is leasing space in Butner to provide a haven where struggling veterans can learn how to be self-reliant again. The nonprofit needs money to continue the renovations so it can get the center open.

“With the holidays approaching, we’re going to see more of what we saw last year,” Smith says. “With the stress of the holidays, there’s going to be more incidences of vets having run-ins with the law or with family members because of the scattered nature of the response.”

Women’s Center needs

Since last Christmas, the Women’s Center of Wake County has moved out of its perpetually flooding downtown Raleigh location into a nicer place near Hillsborough Street, but help hasn’t followed.

“Donations are down,” says Regina Brooks, the center’s client services coordinator. “They are definitely down, yet our numbers of clients have increased. We need help for Christmas, monetary donations, a food drive would be excellent, and certainly gifts for our families.”

The generosity that came the center’s way through the Holiday Guide to Giving last year immeasurably changed lives, Brooks says.

“It changed the way our clients saw themselves,” she says. “They saw hope. If that could trickle down to the next person, and the next person, we can undo this homeless thing. There are still miracles. Every day people will see one if they just take the time. They can see the miracle or be the miracle.”

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