Critical Need: Donations drop threatens vital Catholic Charities programs
William Dagendesh
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Critical Need: Donations drop threatens vital Catholic Charities programs

by William J. Dagendesh

COLORADO SPRINGS. Catholic Charities of Central Colorado is seeking assistance from the community to counteract a drop in donations amid a surge in demand for services.

According to a Feb. 1 statement issued by Catholic Charities, the agency is experiencing a donations shortfall of more than $628,000. “The hardest hit programs are the Marian House Kitchen, The Marketplace pantry, and Marian House Emergency Services, although all programs share the financial burden of decreased donations,” said Andy Barton, President and CEO of Catholic Charities.

Barton said most nonprofits rely on November and December for a bump in donations to get them through the year. Because holiday donations fell well short of projected revenue, the agency’s clients may have to wait for services or not be served at all. Catholic Charities hopes to raise $600,000 to resume services at necessary levels to meet the need, Barton said.

“There could be deeper cuts across the board in all programs. Some programs could be eliminated; some people might be turned away or have long wait times to receive services, all based upon resources available at the time,” Barton said.

To help lessen the gap, Catholic Charities has implemented a hiring freeze and a budget re-forecasting (cutting without closing programs).

“We have reached out to the community via media for support. We are appealing to donors and lapsed donors. We have also asked our staff, board of directors and volunteers for help,” Barton said.

In trying to determine the cause of the drop in donations, the agency found that the majority of large donors continued to give in 2023. However, the number of individual donors has declined from 3,100 in 2020 to 2,400 in 2023.

“It’s that loss of 600-700 donors who gave in the $500-$1,000 range,” Barton said, adding that political, economic and social uncertainty impacts giving. Since December 2022, grocery prices have increased by 2.7% which is on top of a 10.4% increase in 2021.

“The impact has been felt the most in the pantry, where the amount of food a family may take has been cut back. We have a four-week waiting list to get in, but can’t extend the hours of service due to financial and food constraints,” Barton said.

“When people go to the grocery stores and experience continuous high costs of groceries (up 4% this year over 10% the previous year), then get hit by increases in rents/mortgages, and are now planning for an expected increase in property taxes, the overall feeling is the cost times are tough and tight for many,” he said.

Also, Emergency Rental Assistance COVID–19 funds, which helped prevent people from being evicted, have run out, and salaries have not kept up with inflation, Barton said. These increases put their fragile income-to-expense ratio out of balance, causing them to miss rent payments and become evicted.

“What we expect is those people we were able to help avoid getting evicted through rental assistance are now going to need other services we provide, such as the food pantry or a daily meal because they’re trying to make up enough to be able to pay their rent.”

Barton believes some people perceive that the need for help ended with the pandemic. When COVID dominated the headlines, people understood that those on the margins needed help. The need is still there, but it’s no longer the center of attention.

“To some degree, we think people aren’t giving simply because they don’t know we need help,” Barton said. “The crisis for people we serve is far greater now than it was in 2020 . . . The cost of food (and) housing is increasing, wages aren’t keeping up. It’s pushing those experiencing poverty into the margins even more.”

Barton said every gift, no matter the size, will help. He encourages residents to spread the news and to organize a food drive. Residents can donate at www.CCharitiesCC.org/ChangingLives or mail a check to Catholic Charities, 228 North Cascade Ave., Colorado Springs, CO 80903. To learn more call 719-866-6440.

Also, Benet Hill Monastery is asking the community to make donations to Westside Cares and Catholic Charities in honor of Catholic Sisters Week, which this year is March 8-14. Last year, Benet Hill Monastery collaborated with the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Sisters’ Thrift & Boutique customers and Benet Hill community to encourage donations.

Ruth Roland, Benet Hill’s Mission Advancement director, said donations have assisted Westside Cares and its various food pantries. “This year, we would like to invite the entire diocese to celebrate religious women by making donations to Westside Cares or another organization like Catholic Charities,” Roland said.

She also anticipates that they will hold a “Stuff the Truck” event again this year, but details are still being finalized.

Through its collaboration, Westside Cares last year provided essential staples for its six pantries that helped nourish more than 5,000 local families. CEO Kristy Milligan said Westside Cares shares in the sisters’ commitment to providing care and compassion for the community’s most vulnerable members.

“From soup kitchens to marching for civil rights to mentorship programs, you can find nuns at the forefront of movements to support those in need. We’re honored and humbled to be the conduit of this outpouring of community support,” Milligan said.

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