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Nonprofits seek aid beyond holidays
Ruth Baumann stocks shelves in the pantry at The Place of Forsyth County, which provides food for residents in need. - photo by Autumn McBride

The families at Abba House had a great Christmas.

The nonprofit received an outpouring of gifts during the holidays, said Jim Sharp, founder of the facility, a recovery center for women dealing with issues of addiction, depression or eating disorders.

The children got bicycles and their mothers received perfume.

But with the holidays over, the shelter still lacks more practical items. Sharp said the kids need school supplies and their mothers could use shampoo.

Support often dwindles after the holidays, Sharp said, though the shelter’s families have the same basic needs and rely on the community’s generosity.

“We can be more practical and smarter about giving by understanding that organizations like Abba House need donations 12 months of the year,” Sharp said.

Many nonprofits face the same scenario, said Nicole McCoy, executive director of Forsyth County Community Connection.

Giving is at the forefront during the holidays, whether because it’s a reflective time or because people want to take advantage of year-end tax deductions, she said.

The holiday season often focuses on presents, she said, which is a different type of giving than what nonprofits look for the rest of the year.

“The public was so gracious in giving gifts,” she said. “What’s hard is that in order to continue operating ... we also need cash donations.”

Many local nonprofits hold events or drives to raise “funds and friends” throughout the year, McCoy said.

She said supporters can often best help their favorite charity by deciding what’s available in their budget and then split it up into payments, similar to buying a car.

While that option is available at The Place of Forsyth County, most donations are one-time only and come in during the last quarter of the year, said Sandy Beaver, executive director.

“That’s a critical time for us because it supplies the means for most of the next year,” she said. “You do receive them throughout the year, but not at the level that you will throughout the holidays.”

She said the food drive was especially bountiful this holiday season and monetary donations were strong, especially considering the economy.

In general, Beaver said the community has stepped up by providing items for the food bank and gaining sponsors for The Place’s community meals. Financial support, however, has been more difficult.

The economy has created greater demand, Beaver said, and the holidays aren’t the only time families need food, supplies or money.

“Pretty much after the holidays, donations of [food and funds] get very quiet. Donations don’t come in because the needs increase,” Beaver said. “There is a need, and it is 352 days a year, not just holidays.”

Extreme cold snaps or heat waves often draw more people, she said, but they can also be the slowest periods for donations.

Sharp suggested that people use their own families as a guide for when charities may be need assistance.

When you get winter coats or school supplies for your children, he said, chances are those in need are also hoping for those items.

He also recommended giving grocery gift cards so the shelter can supplement what it gets from the Atlanta Food Bank as needed.