Charities See Drop In Giving A Year After Sandy

| 02 Mar 2015 | 05:06

New York Cares needs more coats; other NYC non-profits are feeling cutbacks too

Throughout the city, a number of local charities are reporting an alarming drop in donations this year, and many attribute the discrepancy to the effects of Hurricane Sandy.

Last year, New Yorkers were overwhelmingly generous in the wake of the large-scale disaster that left so many in need, leading some charity officials to predict a drop in donations this year.

"There was so much positive response from New Yorkers last year, and people came out in droves to support their neighbors," said Beth Shapiro, executive director of City Meals on Wheels, a non-profit that delivers meals to the elderly. "But please remember, the need doesn't go away the year after. We feed your hidden neighbors, the ones you don't see on the streets."

New York Cares, the non-profit organization that runs the biggest coat drive across the five boroughs, has seen a significant drop in coat donations, even though coat requests are up by 25 percent this year. They are putting out a last-minute plea before 2013 draws to a close, for caring New Yorkers to donate their unwanted coats.

"It's also incredibly upsetting because homelessness is up 13 percent in the city from this time last year," said Ann Corry, a representative from New York Cares. "You can see it on the streets and in the subways. There's a huge need and we're encouraging every New Yorker to look into their closet, because we will put your coat on the back of someone in need right away."

New York Cares isn't the only organization feeling a downturn in charitable donations this holiday season. City Meals on Wheels is experiencing an 8 percent decrease in direct mail donations. That might not sound like a huge dip, but it is when considering that 30 percent of the organization's overall budget comes from those funds. City Meals on Wheels has added 800 new recipients to their swelling number of elderly New York residents in need.

Large organizations like the New York chapter of the American Red Cross have not seen a significant increase or decrease in charitable donations this year, but local charities and non-profits, like the Goddard Riverside Center on the Upper West Side, are struggling this holiday season. Renee Colombo, the director of development at Goddard-Riverside, said that the holiday donations - especially the mail-in's - are slow this season. She said that the center has been trying to develop their digital outreach through social media and email. "The jury's still out, we still have a few weeks before the end of the year," said Colombo. "We can't compete with the Red Cross when it comes to mobilizing donors to the degree that they do." Goddard-Riverside actually saw a significant downturn last year in donations, as their usual donors turned their attention away from the relatively-unaffected Upper West Side, and toward disaster relief.

For Lower Manhattan organizations like the Bowery Mission, last year was a lifesaver, and brought in record-breaking donations. But this year, the Bowery Mission is hurting. The organization that feeds the hungry and provides emergency shelter for the homeless has seen a 24 percent downturn in donations since October 1st of this year.

"I expected a bit of a difference from last year with the hurricane, but I didn't think it would be this much," said James Winans, chief development officer of the Mission. "The next three weeks are critical for us. We are reaching out to our donors every way we know how. I think there's some uncertainty in the economy, but there are people in need all across the city."