Warm coats, warm food and warm, fuzzy feelings

Holiday donations help the Glory Hole make up lost ground

Posted: Friday, December 25, 2009

The economy may be down, but that hasn't stopped people from giving this holiday season, say many Juneau nonprofits.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

Glory Hole Executive Director Mariya Lovishchuk calls holiday donations "overwhelming and unbelievable."

Before Thanksgiving, individual donations at the Glory Hole were down 30 percent for the year. The week after Thanksgiving, they were down 24 percent. Now, they're at around 16 percent.

Though the nonprofit has still taken in $30,000 less than last year, holiday donations made up a significant amount of ground, Lovishchuk said.

"This holiday period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is when we get a large portion of our donations," she said.

"... People are giving a lot this year. They're spending a lot more mental energy thinking about people who are less fortunate, ... it's a cool time to be in the nonprofit business."

Coast Guard Cutter Liberty Captain Lt. Brian Tesson said Juneau's contribution to the Coast Guard's annual Blanket, Coat and Toy Drive haul of 5,000 pounds of goods was "incredible" and close to record breaking, if not record breaking.

Karen Fortwengler, director of Helping Hands, said food and toy donations have been down for the nonprofit, though some individual drives have turned out well. She attributed the estimated decline to the economy.

Martha Crockroft, administrative assistant at St. Vincent de Paul, said the nonprofit has seen both more people needing help and more people donating in 2008 than in 2009.

"People are in the holiday spirit," said holiday distribution volunteer Rena Sims. "They bring in stuff and are happy to give. Sometimes they're more happy than the receivers. The receivers ... 98 percent are humbled and excited that someone cares. The givers ask, 'Do you have enough? What else can we do?'"

This year the nonprofit distributed 350 food baskets and adopted 150 families during the Christmas season.

Crockroft said the nonprofit collected about $3,000 for Christmas, with around the same amount for Thanksgiving. Though she couldn't recall the exact figures for 2008, she said it was less than 2009.

Ann Lockhart, clearinghouse director at five-year-old Juneau nonprofit Love, Inc. (Love in the name of Christ), said donations have been "pretty consistent" during the holiday season, with a small increase in donations she attributes to a combination of the nonprofit becoming more well-known and, possibly, increased needs.

"We have been blessed to have consistent giving, both of material items (to the foodbank and clothing, furniture and baby supplies) and the monetary giving has been fairly consistent from individuals and churches," she said.

The nonprofit has 26 partner churches in Juneau.

Love Inc. Program Director Jeri Kissner said some funding from organizations is down, but church adoption of families is up. The organization also helped out some kids at Yaakoosgé Daakahídi High School this year, she said.

"We have the best community," said St. Vincent de Paul volunteer Rena Sims. "That's not flattery; that's real. There are a lot of people who will go the extra mile and are happy to come and give."

• Contact reporter Mary Catharine Martin at 523-2276 or maryc.martin@juneauempire.com.



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