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MADISON, Wi. – Ernest Thomas used to fill people’s
pantries, not rely on them to get by.“I never thought I would end up here, but it happens,”
The former baker found himself out of the job after a
heart attack. Now, Thomas turns to the
shelves of the Salvation Army for help.
“I'm not the only one,” Thomas said. “There are a lot of people out there that are
depending on this food pantry, especially right here in the neighborhood.”
Nearly 1300 people came to the food pantry in February
alone, but as the need is growing, the resource could soon be gone.
“And now, they're going to take the food pantry away from
the people? What are these people going
to do. It's hard. It's going to be really hard,” Thomas said.
That food pantry and other programs at the Salvation Army
of Dane County are in jeopardy after the organization’s trademark fundraiser
came up seriously short.
“We're behind $285,000 as it relates to our budget,”
That’s the kind of deficit Carter said forces him to plan
“We're at a point right now, if we don't get a substantial
increase in some funds, we will have to do some program reductions and maybe
some positions lost,” Carter explained.
Carter credited the short holiday season, fewer people
carrying cash, and more online shopping as possible reasons for the lack of
fundraising. He said the organization
has been challenged with similar issues all over the country.
Carter said the shortfall accounts for about 6% of the
Salvation Army’s budget, and eliminating after-school programming, summer day
camps, and the food pantry are not out of the question.
“Whenever you start touching programs and positions,
you're affecting people's lives,” Carter said, “and I'd rather have my teeth
pulled one by one than do this.”
Carter said the dire situation is forcing the Salvation
Army to look at other ways to raise money.
The organizations are working on ideas to enhance their online presence
and push donations through websites.
“There is increasing donations coming through the
Internet, but it's still relatively small compared to the whole,” Cater
said. “But eventually, we'll have to
deal with this cashless society.”
Marcia Whittington with Edgewood College worked in the
non-profit realm for 20 years. She said organizations should try not to rely on
one big fundraiser, but rather diversify their efforts to appeal to a wide
variety of donors.
“When you put all of your eggs in one basket and that may
not achieve what you want it to do, it's really challenging if you don't have
anything else to fall back on,” Whittington said.
Whittington added it can take years to successfully
establish a new fundraiser that actually brings in money for the non-profit.
“That transitional time is challenging, and we've all
been through it, been through a time when the money isn't coming in as quickly
as we want,” Whittington said, “but hopefully non-profits are looking at making
sure they have rainy day fund of some sort to fill in throughout those times
when those transitional periods need to be there.”
Unfortunately, Carter said reserves were depleted over
the past few years. Now, the only way to
make up the money is to ask the community for sizeable donations.
“At this very difficult moment, it could save us from
having to make those kinds of cuts, but that is reality we face today,” Carter
Thomas said while too many aren’t listening to the bells,
someone is hearing his prayers.
“I trust God. I
know he'll work things out for me,” Thomas said.
If you want to help the Salvation Army of Dane County,
Thursday, March 13 2014, 02:43 PM CDT
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