Charities hope short season won’t stunt giving

Published 9:21 pm Saturday, November 30, 2013

Charities in Suffolk that depend on holiday-season giving are hoping this year’s short span between Thanksgiving and Christmas won’t affect the amount of money they are able to collect.

November started on a Friday this year, meaning Thanksgiving — always held on the fourth Thursday of November — fell as late in the month as possible. As the holiday season, and therefore holiday giving, traditionally do not start until the day after Thanksgiving, that left less than a full month in the season.

Suffolk News-Herald Cheer Fund board member Frank Rawls, an attorney who also does the needed legal work for the fund, said he hopes the short season will not affect giving.

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In 2008, when the holiday season was almost as short, the Cheer Fund collected $38,406. The goal for this year is $35,000, which is lower than in past years to reflect the reality of the struggling economy, Rawls said.

At the Salvation Army, Suffolk Corps Capt. Jim Shiels said the charity’s annual red kettle campaign has gotten off to a strong start despite the short season.

“Things have started out good,” he said before Thanksgiving. “But we are short about a week of regular kettle time. We’re concerned that this lack of about four or five business days is going to affect us somewhat. We just believe it’s going to come in and the people are going to make up for the loss.”

One big advantage this year is that Farm Fresh has allowed the bell-ringers to return to the front of its Suffolk stores. The grocery chain, along with Walmart, is a key location for fundraising, Shiels said.

Other locations where the bells will ring include Belk, Walgreens, Food Lion, Big Lots and Alcoholic Beverage Control stores.

Some of the locations do not allow bell-ringing to begin before Black Friday, so there is some time to be made up, Shiels said.

Local residents can help not only by making a donation when they pass by the kettles but also by signing up as a volunteer bell-ringer.

“We are recruiting as many volunteers as we can,” Shiels said. Every volunteer hour means less money paid to an employee to ring the bell.

To volunteer as a bell-ringer, call 539-5201.

To donate to the Cheer Fund, send a check to P.O. Box 1220, Suffolk, VA 23439 or bring it to our office, 130 S. Saratoga St., from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

We will list your donation in the newspaper, but it can be marked “anonymous” if you like. Donations may be made in honor of or in memory of someone. If you bring the check to our office, we’ll even take your picture as you hand it to one of our staff.

For more information on the Cheer Fund, call 934-9616.