WASHINGTON – Some Maryland charities have been receiving less money and supplies since Hurricane Katrina, and they are growing concerned that people’s donations will continue to flow south.
“Everyone’s dealing with poverty in Louisiana, but there’s poverty in Baltimore,” said Tobi Morris with the Franciscan Center. “Our needs won’t stop, and poverty in Baltimore won’t stop. . . . We are praying that our donors will remember our daily work to the poor in Baltimore — as well as those suffering in the Gulf Coast.”
The nonprofit’s in-kind and cash donations were down 33 percent from last year, Morris said. She has watched fewer emergency items roll into the charity, which provides 1,600 men a month with socks, shoes, T-shirts and toothpaste.
In Howard County, a similar fear loomed at Toni Volk’s Congregations Concerned for the Homeless Inc.
Volk helps 12 families, and she expected people to give less money — similar to what happened after the South Asian tsunami and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Some contributors and organizations that supported Volk’s non-profit didn’t donate as much, she said, and instead focused on the high-profile emergency needs, which resulted in a financial cut of 35 percent during each disaster.
“People become focused in one area,” Volk said. “It’s a logical course to take. . . . Their pockets are only just so deep.”
But Volk worried people will forget about Marylanders.
“You have homelessness right here,” she said. “We have people living out of cars. Our needs are here, and they will remain here. . . . You don’t need a disaster to be homeless.”
Or without food.
Bill Ewing, director of the Maryland Food Bank, has seen a decrease of up to 30 percent in some supplies.
Ewing’s non-profit became so focused on helping people on the Gulf Coast that he didn’t even look at how that affected local operations until a reporter called Friday.
“My first reaction was, ‘Let’s just empty out the food bank and send it down there!'” he said. “These people are making choices between not just eating and eating, but eating and living. . . . We’ve been working so darn hard just to support the efforts that we did not look at what the consequences might be.”
While some charities worried about the future, others remained confident in their donors.
Penny Baker, development assistant for Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland, said summer is always a slow time for the nonprofit, and she never saw a decrease after the tsunami or terrorist attacks.
“The people that are sending us money now really believe in our mission,” Baker said. “They understand what we’re doing here. . . . People who are homebound and cannot afford to pay for their meals . . . they don’t go away.”
But Jon Rosa with the Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Mid-Atlantic Inc. said Marylanders must also think nationally.
“It’s a tight time,” he said. “It’s difficult when things like this happen, but we have to step back and look at the greater good of the country.”