Holiday season inspired widespread generosity
Editor's note • This is the final story in a series profiling people and organizations helping those in need during the holidays and throughout the year.
Utah residents opened their hearts and wallets this holiday season to help those less fortunate, and while those acts of generosity are very meaningful, the need for such support does not end when the tinsel and lights come down.
Celeste Eggert, community relations director for The Road Home homeless shelter in downtown Salt Lake City, said the nonprofit social-service agency exceeded its goal of $1.2 million by bringing in $1.4 million in cash donations during its annual Holiday RadioÂthon.
In addition, thousands of cold-weather items such as blankets, coats, hats and gloves also poured in.
"It was a hugely successful year for us," Eggert said. "December is the most important month we have as an agency 50 percent of our private donations for the year come then."
However, demands for the shelter's services continue to run high.
"We've had a 260 percent increase in families since 2007," Eggert said. In October, the Road Home opened its winter overflow shelter in Midvale due to a marked increase in homeless families.
Certain items are needed year around, Eggert said, namely new underwear for children and adults, socks for infants to adults, new and used blankets in all sizes and diapers, sizes 3, 4 and 5.
"Donations have been very generous. We live in a very giving and compassionate society here in Utah," said Ginette Bott, chief marketing director for the Utah Food Bank, which distributes resources to 129 partner agencies and pantries throughout the state.
Even so, food supplies diminish quickly, and Bott said the organization will be more than ready for the annual Boy Scout Drive in March.
"We appreciate the holiday giving spirit," Bott said, "but if we could spread this spirit over 12 months, it would be awesome."
The nonprofit Crossroads Urban Center runs an emergency food pantry at 347 S. 400 East, along with a free and very reduced cost thrift store at 1385 W. 850 South in Salt Lake City.
Glenn Bailey, executive director for Crossroads, said that December's donations are critical because most of what they receive comes during the holiday season.
In mid-December, the Eccles Broadcasting Center held its annual Christmas food and clothing drive, bringing in 66 turkeys, three hams, 2,202 pounds of food, 2Â½ van loads of coats, blankets and other clothing and household items, and $1,995 in cash and checks for Crossroads.
But overall, donations this past year are down, Bailey said.
"People made an extra effort to give during the depths of the recession and there may be some donor fatigue," Bailey said, adding that he believes some are also apprehensive about what will happen with the economy in 2013.
"There is a lot at stake," Bailey said. "The worst possible thing that could happen is getting thrown back into another recession."
When other agencies that rely on government funding get their budgets trimmed, "we're the agency left standing," Bailey said of the largely privately funded Crossroads.
"We will be here serving people who are left out" regardless of what happens with the fiscal cliff, Bailey said. "So any time people can give food, clothing, time or money, we will put that to good use."
Jose Lazaro, development director for Catholic Community Services, praised the community for its generous holiday donations but said he wished the same support would continue through the year.
The faith-based agency runs the downtown Weigand Homeless Day Center and St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall, which work alongside the Road Home to meet the needs of the hungry and homeless population.
"Just because the holidays are wrapping up doesn't mean the need will go away," Lazaro said. Coats, gloves and diapers are still welcomed, Lazaro said, and people can give financial donations online at ccsutah.org.
During its "Give One Raise Two Challenge," the Fourth Street Clinic, a health care center in downtown Salt Lake City that provides a host of medical services to the homeless, raised $150,000, surpassing its original goal of $100,000, said External Affairs Director Jennifer Hyvonen.
"It was awesome to see the community come forward," Hyvonen said, "and we got a lot of new donors during the challenge."
According to a U.S. Census report released on Dec. 19, child poverty in Utah rose slightly from 15.9 percent in 2010 to 16.3 percent in 2011. Utahns of all ages in poverty held steady at 13.5 percent.
In a recent statement, the advocacy organization Voices for Utah Children determined that 377,396 Utahns now live in poverty and close to 141,000 of them are children.
Reporter Pamela Manson also contributed to this story.
Twitter: @catmck Season of Giving highlights
Changing the Odds • The United Way raised $14.3 million, part of a campaign that aims to help entire neighborhoods with versatile support networks.
Crossroads Urban Center • The Eccles Broadcasting Center food and clothing drive raised 2,202 pounds of food, 2Â½ van loads of coats, blankets and thrift store items, and $1,995 in cash and checks.
Fourth Street Clinic • Its "Give One Raise Two Challenge" brought in $150,000 that will be used to provide medical services to the homeless population.
Hser Ner Moo Community Center • The American United Family of Credit Unions and Brickyard's Shoe Carnival donated over 250 pairs of children's shoes.
Ogden Food Bank • Great Salt Lake Mineral Corp. dropped off $27,000 worth of food.
The Road Home • Its annual Holiday Radiothon raised $1.4 million in cash and thousands of blankets, coats, hats and gloves. KeyBank donated $5,000.
Socks, socks and diapers • Utah Building Trades and Utah Labor Community Services donated 4,956 pairs of new socks and 850 diapers to the Road Home.