Christmas giving drained from Sept. 11

CLEVELAND – Many of Ohio’s charities say they fear donors tapped themselves out with contributions in response to the East Coast terrorist attacks.

Monetary donations are down at a time when the flow would usually be at its heaviest, although the Sept. 11 tragedies have inspired people to continue giving in other ways – including volunteerism.

In Lima, the West Ohio Food Bank sent out an extra appeal before Thanksgiving to make up for some regular donors who skipped gifts, said Executive Director Bambi Markham.

“Three top donors said they sent theirs to Sept. 11,” she said, adding she hoped to recoup $8,000 to $10,000 with the additional appeal.

The agency, though, already has started making cuts, eliminating one employee and cutting hours for others. It also is no longer making deliveries to its clients, which now must pick up the supplies themselves.

For the Catholic Charities agency in Cleveland, slow giving and reduced government funding are a concern. The agency provides 400,000 meals and 75,000 nights of shelter a year in an eight-county region.

“Our short-term horizon is not looking too favorable,” said John P. Klee, executive vice president.

The agency spends $89 million a year, 60 percent from the government, such as shelter subsidies. It receives up to 15 percent of its contributions in December, but it was not yet clear whether those traditional donors would give again this year.

Contributions were off 8 percent at Lutheran Social Services in Columbus, where the agency operates the Faith Mission homeless shelter.

“I believe the shift in philanthropic giving in general is a response” to Sept. 11, said Vice President Jerry Schafer.

Charities also say they believe the terrorist attacks can serve to focus givers’ attention on local needs and there has been a rise in volunteerism.

For Shannon Holmes of Cleveland, the attacks provided the extra nudge needed to help out at a warehouse that stocks soup kitchens for the needy.

“I would have done it had Sept. 11 not happened, but it would have made it easier to procrastinate,” the 30-year-old shopping catalogue employee said while sorting green peppers at the Cleveland Foodbank.

At the University of Dayton, the emotional impact of the attacks persuaded mechanical engineering student Adam Rusciolelli, 20, of Bethel Park, Pa., to sign up with the volunteer fire department in Riverside, a community near Dayton.

“To see everything on the news and to experience that, you realize what’s important and what’s not,” he said. “This is a great way to get involved.”