This year, the “Giving Season” has an entirely new meaning for thousands of families across East Orlando and Central Florida. For them, the shoe is on the other foot. Due in large part to the economy, these individuals are turning to nonprofits for basic human needs like food and shelter after losing their jobs. They need help. This is their version of the Giving Season.
Many nonprofits throughout the community are positioning themselves for a busier holiday than usual. This year, even the smallest donations can make the biggest difference for the community.
“We see this whole new population needing help,” says Dave Krepcho, president and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. Second Harvest is a nonprofit that provides food to about 530 different charitable feeding programs in our area. Last year the organization donated more than 21 million pounds of food to those in need. “We’re in our 26th year as an organization and for 25 years we’ve been basically supplying food to folks at or below the poverty level – nowadays we find ourselves giving food to blue and white collar workers with college educations that never saw themselves unemployed,” he says.
During the holidays, Second Harvest participates in several food drives as demand for food goes up during this time of year. “What we have here locally are a couple of very large, community wide drives that help out tremendously providing us literally with tons and tons of food,” says Krepcho. One such drive is the Share Your Christmas event that local NBC affiliate WESH-TV hosts in partnership with the Salvation Army and Second Harvest.
Many local businesses also get on board with the drive that runs through December 11, 2009, like Two Men and a Truck moving company. “Last year we were able to donate 50 boxes of food and this year we hope to double that number,” says Mike McAllister, general manager of Two Men and a Truck. “I try to stress to people when I ask for donations – even if it’s only one can – it can make a difference. That one can of food could make a difference to someone out there who has nothing,” he says. Krepcho agrees: “We didn’t amass 21 million pounds of food from one source last year, it was a lot of small donations that really add up.”
In addition to food, many families are also in search of permanent housing this holiday season as well. “We’re hoping that others will remember during this time and will help us place a family in a home for the holidays,” says Dee Danmeyer, executive director for Habitat for Humanity Orlando.
In addition to volunteer time, Habitat is asking for help this season in the form of gently used appliances and home goods for their Habitat ReStore locations. Donations to the store are then sold back to the general public at reduced prices to cover the costs associated with building homes and administration. “Even though we’re in a tough economy I want everyone to realize that there are people out there who need help and any donation truly helps be that time, talents or treasures,” she says.
The same mentality can be seen across all nonprofits who are trying to give back this holiday season. A Gift for Teaching offers public school teachers a store where they can shop for supplies for free all year. Starting in mid-November, they launched their Seasons for Success program where a $5 donation will earn a holiday card from a student and a personalized letter to whomever the donor chooses. Most importantly, the $5 will result in $50 worth of school supplies thanks to the nonprofits buyback power. “We are 100 percent based on donations so every $5 is huge for us and our teachers,” says Audrey Perrott, director of communications for A Gift for Teaching.
Krepcho says it best: “There’s a lot of people out there and they could easily be your neighbor they are really hurting,” he says. “Something we can all relate to in some way whether you volunteer your time or donate a bag of food or make a small financial donation everybody can make a difference there and everyone has a part to play.”
Article by Corey Gehrold