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Local nonprofits feeling the need
Demand outpacing donations this fall
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Forsyth County News
How to help
To volunteer time, money or goods, contact any of the following.

* Abba House
(678) 947-2850

* Community Connection
(770) 205-1701

* Cumming First United Methodist Church
(770) 887-2900

* The Place
Phone: (770) 887-1098
Thrift store: (678) 947-8825

Supply of charitable donations remains steady in Forsyth County, though the demand has never been so high.

Feeling the strain, local nonprofits are becoming persistent and creative in seeking resources.

The Place of Forsyth County recently got help from the county's five Rotary Clubs to help meet its ever-growing need.

The South, Lanier, Forsyth County, 400 North and Johns Creek Rotary Clubs worked together to donate more than 700 containers of oatmeal.

Sandy Beaver, executive director of the social services organization, said the demand has increased by as much as 40 percent since August.

Beaver said the Rotary Clubs and other civic groups have "responded generously," but she worries about the future.

"The needs are so great this year and I'm sure they're going to continue to increase," she said. "We're wondering what next year is going to be like, and how the staff is going to meet the increased needs we're expecting."

Beaver has asked the organization's board for more money twice this year. The original budget of $191,000 has increased to $246,000, though she said she it may take another $10,000 just to make it to year's end.

Forsyth County's wealth has helped nonprofits raise substantial amounts of money, but Beaver said it's also why budgets are drained so quickly.

"Many of the needs that people have are for large sums," Beaver said. "We're seeing people who need $600 plus to keep their utilities from being disconnected. That's a lot of money per person."

Beaver said so far they've been able to cover the need. Eventually, however, the money may not be there.

At the Cumming First United Methodist Church's food pantry, collections are steady. But like The Place, the demand continues to increase exponentially.

"This time last year, we were serving about 180 families," said Janet Walden, coordinator of lay volunteer services. "In September, we served 330 families that month ... and in October, we went up to 435 families.

"When you look at the number of people, that 435 families was about 1,400 people and over 10,000 pounds of food."

Walden hasn't turned anyone away, thanks to food drives and assistance from schools, scout troops, civic groups and the church's congregation.

What most surprises Walden is the fresh faces lining up for food.

"Some are still the same. We have a lot of young families with children and we have elderly," she said. But we're seeing a lot more ... middle class. We had a young man come in with a resume in hand, headed to an interview, who stopped to get a bag of groceries on his way.

"There are just a lot of hurting people out there and we hope we can continue to meet the need."
Julie Puckett, executive director at Jesse's House, said the shelter for at-risk girls has been cutting costs where possible.

"We have reduced the distance that they travel for recreation and the number of recreational activities we do," she said. "People are cutting back. They have less to give because of the economy or job loss. We're just hoping things turn around."

To help maintain exposure, instead of large galas or events, Jesse's House is trying to create smaller fundraising activities throughout the year.

Abba House would appear to be an exception.

Co-founder Jim Sharp said the long-term ministry for troubled women, as well as its thrift shop, are doing well.

"This year has been a pretty good year for us," he said. "Just across the board, everything is way ahead of last year, the financial donations, the in-kind donations.

"I just think the community is embracing what we do. They can see the dramatic changes in the women that we work with and I believe that's what it is."

Sharp said the thrift shop is doing well because people may be more likely to buy old over new.
"In this economy, people tend to ... fix up an old car instead of buying a new car," he said. "I think we're in the right place for people to be able to get more for their money, and I think that's definitely an incentive."