By TEDDYE SNELL
As the holidays draw near, thoughts often turn to helping others who are less fortunate.
The economic situation for many remains stagnant, with many families struggling to make ends meet. In turn, demand for services from the many area nonprofit organizations soars. Among those is the CARE Food Pantry.
“We get the majority of our food from the Eastern Oklahoma Food Bank,” said CARE Food Pantry Manager Rebecca Baughman. “They don’t have much right now, because the Farm Bill has not been signed. If it’s not signed, we’ll see a cut in commodities and food stamps, and our need will increase, and there will be even less food available from the food bank.”
Baughman said the pantry needs all the help it can get, and there are a couple of ways to contribute.
“Donations can be made here at the pantry, and Reasor’s is selling prepackaged sacks of food for $15 each,” said Baughman. “These are donated to the CARE Food Pantry, which has helped us stock up on some food.”
Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service 4-H Educator Carl Wallace said his kids are planning an event Saturday to help with food donations.
“The [Cherokee County] 4-H program has obtained a 7-foot by 16-foot cargo trailer that we’re going to park at Reasor’s this Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” said Wallace. “Our goal is to fill the trailer with canned food, which will be distributed to both the CARE Food Pantry and Hands of Grace at Park Hill.”
Those looking to clean out closets or get rid of furniture may want to consider Help-In-Crisis’ Encore Resale Shop. All donations are tax-deductible, according to HIC volunteer Sue Agnew.
“We issue tax receipts, and all proceeds support the shelter, which is always in need,” said Agnew.
“The shelter runs at capacity most of the time, and they often have to turn people away at this time of year.”
Encore takes donations during business hours, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Friday; and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. All items are accepted, including clothing, furniture, household items and children’s toys.
“We really encourage people to bring donations during office hours,” said Agnew. “Anything left outside when the store is closed is subject to theft, sadly.”
Two other organizations, Project Osiyo and Hope House, also offer shelter services, and are always in need of some extra help.
“Any kind of a donation is a godsend,” said Project Osiyo Men’s Shelter Director of Operations Dave Stickels. “Most of the people around here are aware of our dire financial straits. Most shelters are pinned against a wall right now. The best way to help is through monetary donations, but we are also grateful to receive food, cleaning supplies and toiletry items.”
Stickel said that while Project Osiyo still has needs, he’s seen an uptick in community generosity lately.
“We’ve received more donations in the past six months than I’ve ever seen,” said Stickel.
“I just want people to know how grateful we are that they’ve thought of us.”
Tahlequah Area Habitat for Humanity helps approved applicants build homes, and relies on the community for a good portion of its funding and labor. The organization recently opened a surplus store, which also accepts donations.
“We need donations of good, used furniture, appliances and household items,” said TAHFH Surplus Store Manager Dave Heald. “If people replace their light fixtures, we want them to donate the original ones to the store. Of course, all donations are tax-deductible.”
TAHFH Executive Director Linda Cheatham also encourages community members to consider the organization when making monetary donations.
“I just want to remind everyone that all donations received through the end of December are tax-deductible,” said Cheatham. “We are starting preparations for House No. 20 to be built in 2013, and need funds to build, and also an acre of land in the Grand View School District on which to build the house. If the land for House No. 20 was donated, that would be great.”
Children are often the focus of the holiday season, and there are several ways local residents can help kids – including making donations to Court Appointed Special Advocates of Cherokee Country, and the Tahlequah Boys & Girls Club.
“I think every nonprofit is hopeful to receive some financial support at the end of the year,” said CASA Executive Director Jo Prout. “Our program has continued to receive cuts in funding from our typical sources, including the federal government, foundations and private donations.”
Prout said when economic times get tough, everybody seems to understand that domestic situations escalate.
“What they don’t think about is the children,” said Prout. “Kids are easy targets, and when times get difficult, the kids are bigger targets than ever. We’re trying to train volunteers to serve those children when they come into the court system, and that’s difficult to do with no funding.”
CASA offers tax receipts for donations, said Prout.
The Tahlequah Boys & Girls Club has also suffered funding cuts, losing its 21st Century Learning Grant that funded the unit at Tahlequah Middle School, and the Indian Demonstration Grant that was used for the after-school program at Tahlequah High School. The Tahlequah B&GC has grown from one unit with 100 members, to 13 units with over 5,000 members.
Tahlequah B&GC Chief Professional Officer Janice Randall hopes people will remember the program when considering donations this year.
“Even if it’s just a small amount, every little bit helps,” said Randall. “All donations are tax-deductible, and we accept credit card donations made through our accountant, J.D. Carey. More and more people appreciate our program, but like most nonprofits, we’re hurting for funding.”
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