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Continued: Demand for holiday giving programs on the rise in south metro

  • Article by: GRAISON HENSLEY CHAPMAN , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Last update: November 26, 2013 - 7:12 PM

Maloney has also seen pressure on middle- and low-income people through an area e-mail network of churches and nonprofits that share charity requests. Among the challenges are mental health issues and the rising price of rent.

Burnsville used to be more affordable,” she said, “but those rents are going up, too.”

This year, Maloney said, the church’s Thanksgiving basket program will feed 412 families of four, which will be distributed to agencies like the Eagan Resource Centers. The church also has an emergency food pantry, which has seen an increase in demand.

“Even though we like to think the recession is over,” she said, “for some people it’s not.”

Broader need

In more than 30 years at South St. Paul-based Neighbors Inc., Joan Rhodes can’t point to another time so many people were coming to the social service agency for help. Rhodes, the director of programs, said 40 families a day apply for help to pay for Christmas gifts, which is more than in previous years.

Neighbors Inc. also runs an adopt-a-family gift program among its other holiday programs. But Rhodes is more focused on the year-round need.

“A year ago we were helping 400 families a month,” she said. “This year it’s gone up to 500.” Why? The high cost of rent, she said, the high cost of day care, and jobs that pay less than they used to.

Several years ago, Rhodes said, the typical family visited Neighbors Inc.’s food shelf three or four times a year, and the shelf could be run with 20 volunteers. Today the shelf needs 50 volunteers, and families come in every month. “Some families that were donors in the past are now recipients,” she said.

‘All year round we share this story’

The Community Action Center of Northfield has not seen an increase in demand for Christmas Sharing, its annual free toy and clothing shop. Director Jim Blaha says the program anticipates serving 900 children this Christmas, about the same as the past several years.

But underlying that consistency, Blaha said, is the fact that the families who rely on Christmas Sharing are the same families who need help from its food shelf and free weekly meals throughout the year.

“People tend to think more of giving around this time of year,” he said. “Any way that happens is good, it’s noble, I applaud it.” But, he said, “we try to generate this kind of response year-round.

“All year round we work to share the story.”

 

Graison Hensley Chapman is a Northfield freelance writer.

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