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Local charities experiencing donation shortfalls

Since many Americans donated money to Sept. 11-related charities, others have not received the kind of support they're used to
General Editor
   With the outpouring of donations since Sept. 11, to help victims of the World Trade Tower disaster in New York, many local nonprofit groups are feeling a bite into their own fund-raising efforts.
   "It's been really bad this year," said Marilyn Watts of Jefferson County United Way.
   Nationwide, that group in particular is experiencing such a downturn of donations that President Bush recently appeared on National TV in a United Way commercial to urge Americans not to forget other worthy agencies.
   United Way is an umbrella fund-raising group that collects during a single campaign for several different agencies. In Jefferson County United Way represents 14 groups: American Red Cross, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Central Oregon Council On Aging, COBRA, Children's Learning Center, Early Intervention, Mountain View Hospice, Jefferson County Food Bank, Meals On Wheels, the Ministerial Association, Pregnancy Resource Center and Court Appointed Special Advocates.
   Watts said the United Way goal is $24,000, but by Nov. 29, only $3,234 had come in, and the campaign winds up at the end of December.
   "This year is will be a miracle if we can pay what was promised. We'll be very fortunate if we make half our goal," Watts said. For more information on United Way call 475-2783 or 475-2991.
   Checking with several charity groups, Jean Fifield reported Meals On Wheels fund-raising was holding fairly level.
   "It has a lot of emotional appeal and local support, but there is some anxiety about overall tri-county donations," she said.
   Brenda Chilcott of Central Oregon Council On Aging (COCOA), which administers senior programs like Meals On Wheels, said COCOA just began its direct mail appeal and they won't know about donations until later. COCOA's regionwide annual goal is $110,000, which includes money raised from a Rock-A-Thon and other senior center events.
   "Our theme this year is `Adopt A Senior.' We have a dedicated group of donors, who I'm optimistic will continue to give.
   John Curnutt, director of the Jefferson County Food Bank, said the food bank has seen an increase over the last few weeks in people needing food.
   "Usually we see 30 to 40 families a week, but now we are seeing 50 to 60 families a week," Curnutt said.
   During the fall he said local people were good about bringing in extra garden produce, and during winter cash donations are appreciated.
   "Right now cash donations are extremely helpful. They allow us to buy a lot of things we don't normally get," Curnutt said. The food bank is open from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays.
   While donations have been pouring into the National Red Cross Sept. 11 fund, regional centers have noticed a drop in contributions.
   Kevin Doroski, executive director of the Central Oregon Chapter of American Red Cross, noted, "People were incredibly generous when it came to New York, but there's been a downturn in regional funds."
   Last year C.O. Red Cross responded with help to over 60 disasters such as house fires. Red Cross also provides First Aid, CPR, and life guard training classes, as well as children's Learn To Swim classes regionwide.
   The organization also is a link between families and service personnel in the military and helps approximately 150 families reach military personnel last year.
   "This year is really an unusual situation with so much money going back east. Everybody is feeling the pinch," Doroski said.
   However, the Red Cross Bloodmobile had a different experience, according to Director Nancy Edlefsen. "Donations of blood jumped immediately through mid-October, then leveled off," she said, adding that it is also cold and flu season, which caused many not to be able to donate blood.
   In Madras in September Edlefsen said Red Cross collected 47 units of blood; Oct. 4, 55 units; and 88 units at two November drives.
   The Jefferson County Start Making A Reader Today (SMART) program issued a letter to its volunteers stating that the program is being scaled back by one month (ending April 26) to help reduce program costs. "The events of Sept. 11, have further impacted charitable donations as they shift to relief efforts. In order to be fiscally responsible, we are taking action now to safeguard our future," the letter said.
   Jefferson County Boys and Girls Club has had to eliminate the full-time teen director's position, and two part-time positions, due to the Commission on Children and Families lowering its donation from $77,340 to $6,979. School District 509-J was not able to donate $20,000 as it has in the past, but Jefferson County Education District came through with a $20,000 donation. Last year, the county contributed $7,500 and the City of Madras $5,000, and those donations have not been received yet for this year.
   Club Director Grant Faulconer said a recent Campaign For Kids breakfast raised just under what it did last year, and the groups big "Evening Elegance" prime rib dinner and auction is coming up Dec. 8, at the fairgrounds. Tickets are now on sale for $35 per person, call 475-3082. The event benefits both the Madras and Warm Springs programs.