Local agencies struggle as downturn continues

  • Feb. 3, 2016 3:44 p.m.

A reality is many agencies receive attention towards the end of the year, but struggle financially as they head into a new one.

For example, the agencies of Loaves and Fishes and the Red Deer Food Bank receive many donations in the holiday season, but both head into a much busier time as the New Year moves along.

“I think maybe the problem with the holiday season is that some people only tend to give at that time. It’s that spirit of giving that motivates people, and everyone wants to be a part of that. However, they tend to forget about us after Christmas and our bills don’t stop then. Our obligations don’t stop and our programs don’t stop,” said Halina Jarvis, executive director of Loaves and Fishes.

“It’s important for us to make sure that people are aware that people are still in crisis, people still need housing and they still need food – all of that means we still need operational money to make it happen.”

With the current economic crisis, many families and citizens are still looking to not-for-profit agencies such as Loaves and Fishes as they continue to struggle. Loaves and Fishes provides crisis intervention that is needed all year long. Operational costs and expenses are still high as they move into the late winter and spring months.

Jarvis said although they are extremely thankful for the Christmastime donations, they still require assistance.

“We so welcome Christmas because it’s such a big bonus for us and gives us some of the money that we can use for another half year or so.

“This year it was not as much giving, and we weren’t surprised by that with the economy. We were expecting a downturn and we got about half of what we’d normally get. This round of fundraising is very important for us, and we need to make it happen,” she said.

“I would say that all agencies are experiencing the same thing, the same downtrend and the same trepidation of how we’re going to make the rest of the year work,” she continued.

“You just have to make people aware that we’re still in crisis, and people still need help. Kids still need to go to school and get their school lunches so we need to be able to keep that up. I really think (all non-profits) are in the same boat.”

Along the same lines of thought, Executive Director of the Red Deer Food Bank Fred Scaife, acknowledged the hardest part of the year is yet to come.

According to Scaife and a post made to facebook last month, almost 1,000 people walked through the Red Deer Food Bank doors seeking assistance within the first 10 days of January. That number went up 54% from last year’s need in the same time span.

“Our job is to make sure that these people get fed. We’re still not even in the busiest month of the year – February is usually the busiest month of the year,” Scaife said.

“We’re kind of in a perfect storm right now that makes this different than the last recession. We weathered that one pretty well. We had to do some interior modifications to our facility in order to face the numbers of people coming in, and we’re used to lots of people coming in.

“However, what’s happening right now is there is a downturn in the economy and the inflation of food is incredible. All of those things are coming to bear on these families.”

These are only two examples of agencies in Red Deer that are seeking the help of the community to keep providing their regular services. With the current economic status, both executive directors acknowledged the difficulty of donating. At the same time, they each acknowledged the growing need in the community for these services.

“The amount of people we’re seeing is really unprecedented. I can’t say that enough. This is really uncharted waters in terms of our organization, but we’re trying to muddle through with what we’ve got,” Scaife said.

He added although donations of food and money are needed, the food bank is in dire need of volunteers. Jarvis stressed people are often great about bringing in items to the facility, but their greatest need lies in monetary donations for overhead costs of keeping the doors open and lights on.


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