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Clay Co. meeting needs

Friday, December 20, 2002

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- With less than a week until Christmas, time is running out for charities to aid thousands of families in need this holiday season.

Agencies across the state say the lagging economy has put donations and volunteers in short supply and sent demand for assistance soaring.

However, Clay County seems to be the exception.

At Wednesday's Even Start Christmas program, Vicki Switzer, of Title I, said, "The community has been very generous"

The program took place in the West Central Village Community Building, west Central Village Apartments, in Brazil.

Linda Nicoson, co-director of Toys for Tots, agreed.

"We believe we have every organization in Clay County involved and co-ordinated to cover the needs of every family in Clay County requesting assistance," Nicoson said. "We had more people wanting to help than we had families requesting assistance."

Nicoson was speaking on behalf of Toys for Tots, Christmas Assistance Organization and the Clay County Benevolence.

The groups helped more than 400 families this year.

The spirit of want may be felt elsewhere across the state next year.

Direct contributions to the Salvation Army's $2 million Tree of Lights campaign in Indianapolis stood at $881,000 on Monday, down from $1.1 million at the same time last year.

Collections through the army's red kettles, which also support the campaign, are running $55,000 behind last year.

"We're seeing so much more need, but we're seeing the giving much lower than it has been in the past," said Salvation Army spokesman Duane Brodt.

The number of families signing up for Christmas assistance from the Salvation Army has jumped from 500 last year to 967 this year.

"Unemployment was a lot of it," said Ann Painter, who is in charge of special projects for the Salvation Army. "Either people were facing a cutback of hours or layoffs."

The South Bend Salvation Army's annual bell-ringing Christmas fund-raising drive is also in need of help.

Through Tuesday, the campaign had raised just 57 percent of the $150,000 goal, said Capt. Nicholas Montgomery, commander of the South Bend chapter.

"If we keep going the way we're going, we won't make it. We'll fall short," Montgomery said. "It's possibly the economy. The stock market is shaky and people are a little bit timid as far as their giving."

The story is the same in Allen County.

Each December, Maj. Mark Turner, of the local Salvation Army office, could count on generous donors sending in a few thousand dollars.

"A donor who always sent a $5,000 check every Christmas sent a check for $200 and an apology," Turner said.

Other agencies are reporting similar problems.

The United Christmas Service, which aids nearly 10,000 families, said that although its donations have jumped $100,000 since last week, it has raised only 61 percent of its goal of $725,000.

Even the Marine Corps Reserve doesn't expect to meet the need this year.

Though organizers expect the annual Toys for Tots campaign to bring in more than the 38,000 toys collected last year, the poor economy has generated more requests for help, said Marine 1st Sgt. Christopher Borghese.

"It won't be enough. It's never enough," Borghese said of the toy drive.

Times Staff Writers Michele Driscoll and Linda Messmer contributed to this story.



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