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10/30/2013 11:31:00 AM
Donor fatigue or down economy?
Food banks, charities struggle with lack of donations
Volunteer Michael Bryan picks scours the empty shelves to fill a box at the Yavapai Food Bank in Prescott Valley Tuesday afternoon. Yavapai Food Bank Executive Director Ann Wilson said, “With 125-175 different families coming through the food bank four days a week, all the donations come in and go out just as quickly.”
Photo courtesy Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier
Volunteer Michael Bryan picks scours the empty shelves to fill a box at the Yavapai Food Bank in Prescott Valley Tuesday afternoon. Yavapai Food Bank Executive Director Ann Wilson said, “With 125-175 different families coming through the food bank four days a week, all the donations come in and go out just as quickly.”
Photo courtesy Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier

Scott Orr
Special to the Tribune


PRESCOTT - Agencies that supply food to the needy are in dire shape as the holiday season approaches, with empty shelves and record-low donations, as people who might normally give are instead asking for help.

Ann Wilson with the Yavapai Food Bank said they're out of staples. "Things are looking a little bleak right now," with chips and candy being the only items still on the shelves.

Wilson said they aren't in a position to buy food to restock. "Our bank account is lower than it's ever been," she said. "I just don't know where the money's going to come from this year."

Blame it on a still-slumping economy and what nonprofit directors call "donor fatigue," when people have been asked to give so much that they simply stop.

The outpouring of community support in the wake of the Yarnell Hill fire and the loss of the Granite Mountain Hotshots has had an impact on giving, even now, months later. "I'm sure that a lot of it is because of Yarnell," Wilson said. "I think some of the other charities have suffered as a result of it, because people only have so much money."

Couple that with employers that have reduced staff hours, and the money just isn't there to be donated.

"A lot of people that had full-time jobs are being cut back to part-time," Wilson said, "Twenty hours a week is just not enough hours for a family or three, four, or five."

And as if the circumstances weren't bad enough for the Food Bank, they're going to take another hit this year.

"We just got word that, possibly, the post office is not going to be able to do the postal drive," she said. Letter carriers typically pick up 30,000 pounds of food during that drive, "and they've been told they can't do it this year."

Prescott Postmaster Lynn Kent said it was a decision made at a higher level of U. S. Postal Service management.

"I could not get approval to do it this year," Kent said. "They flat-out turned me down."

She said the major sticking point was pay: postal workers are paid extra dollars for the extra weight in donations they must carry, and the postal service already has another food drive. "They don't want a second drive. Even though I had people volunteering to do things on their day off, they wouldn't allow us to do it."

Wilson is concerned. "There's an awful lot of people who depend on this food bank in Yavapai County," she said.

At the Coalition for Compassion and Justice's Open Door Food Pantry, Special Projects Director Diane Iverson is seeing the same thing.

"Our food pantry is low," Iverson said. "It is a concern."

She also said this summer's wildfires have caused donations - both food and financial - to drop.

"Our community is suffering a little bit of donor fatigue, because they've been giving so generously for the problems surrounding the Yarnell fire and the Doce fire," Iverson said. "As I've talked with people I know who work with other nonprofits, they're experiencing that as well."

She said monetary donations allow them to buy what they need the most, but food donations are equally helpful.

"We're particularly in need of protein items," and the basics, like fresh fruits and vegetables.

She's hoping donations will pick up as the holidays approach, which is the norm.

Bob Stack, on the social services desk at the Salvation Army in Prescott, was blunt.

I've been here nine years, and this is the worst year I've ever seen," he said.

The organization cooks for 500 people for Thanksgiving, he said, but, so far, turkey donations have been way down. "Generally, we have turkeys flying in here," Stack said, starting in early October. That hasn't happened this year.

He said a cook called around to grocery stores, soliciting turkey donations, but was not very successful. "He actually got two from Albertsons. We need more like 20 or 25."

The Salvation Army may well have to buy food to serve on Thanksgiving, but financial donations are down, too, he added. "People are coming in for assistance," he said, "and I hear about a lot of hours being cut at work."

"Prescott is just as generous as it's ever been. You just can't give what you don't have," Iverson said.


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