City’s charities are struggling

Published 8:13 pm Saturday, December 11, 2010

With Christmas approaching, many organizations are trying to take advantage of the most charitable time of the year to solicit donations to support their community services.

Many charities are struggling with monetary donations, including ForKids Inc., which runs the Suffolk House homeless shelter.

“We can always use additional finances right now,” said Leila Rice, community and media relations manager for the organization. “We are currently serving about 250 families with 500 children on any given day.”

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Requests for shelter typically increase in the wintertime for a number of reasons. The colder weather drives people inside. Higher utility bills strain the budgets of those already at risk for homelessness, perhaps causing them to lose their homes or apartments.

“We’re turning away about 300 families a month just because of finances,” Rice said. “We’re seeing, because of the economy, a much greater need than ever before.”

ForKids also needs money to run its programs for those it shelters, helping them to break the cycle of homelessness by learning financial management skills, job skills and more.

“Government funding is a lot smaller than it used to be in the past,” Rice said. “We could always use the community support. We’re all helping each other, basically.”

Despite the need for monetary support, the organization’s toy drive is going well, Rice said. The toy drive helps provide toys for children the organization serves or has served in the past.

About 250 families with 600 children are registered for the toys, Rice said. The parents receive vouchers for doing chores around the shelter, meeting financial goals and for other accomplishments. They then use the vouchers to “purchase” the donated toys.

The toys help the children feel better in a difficult situation, Rice said.

“With children, homelessness is devastating for them,” she said. “We want to try and change that for them.”

Any toys donated beyond what ForKids needs are given to smaller organizations and families identified by guidance counselors at elementary schools, Rice said. The Suffolk News-Herald Cheer Fund also is struggling, With only two weeks remaining until Christmas, the fund is at only $9,240. All of the money donated to the Cheer Fund goes to support the Suffolk Toys for Tots program.

To donate to the Cheer Fund, bring a check by the office at 130 S. Saratoga St. or mail one to P.O. Box 1220, Suffolk, VA 23439-1220. For more information about the Cheer Fund, call 539-3437.