Charity feels economic pinch

Published 4:57 pm Thursday, November 13, 2008

SafeHouse director Kathy Wells is worried.

The organization, which provides shelter to abused women and children, needs to fill a large gap in donations to provide its Gift of Giving Christmas program this year.

“One of the companies that has been a long–time supporter has been bought out and where those employees used to gather four to five thousand dollars for us each year, it doesn’t look as if we’ll receive anything this year,” Wells said.

That cuts their expected donations by more than half.

The Gift of Giving program provides families in need with Christmas presents. But it’s not like most programs that only seek new toys.

“One of the things we try to do with families from abusive situations is to help them empower themselves and become self–sufficient,” Wells said. “By giving the parents gift cards, we can take them shopping and give them the gift of actually buying their children’s gifts themselves. We find it’s more meaningful and more powerful.”

Volunteers and SafeHouse staff take mothers and children on separate shopping trips to Walmart to purchase holiday gifts for each other.

“Its often very heartwarming and heartwrencing,” Wells said. “Last year, one little boy just wanted to buy his mother a coat. To see kids not run for toys but for underwear and socks –– the things they need.”

SafeHouse provided gifts to 58 people last year through about $10,000 in donations. This year the numbers have dramatically changed.

“Like everyone else, we’re experiencing cuts because of the economy. The problem is, we always have clients, but when the economy is in trouble, more families are in trouble,” Wells said. “Money goes down but need for services goes up.”

SafeHouse wants to provide Christmas joy to 107 people this year –– almost twice last year’s number.

To contribute to the program, checks can be sent to P.O. Box 620, Columbiana, AL 35051 or by calling 669–1862. Administrators ask that any gift cards donated be no larger than $25 so they can be distributed among the various families served.