CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As the holidays approach, people in the Kanawha Valley are getting into the spirit of the season by giving to local charitable organizations.
Many nonprofit organizations rely on the funding they get from the community during the holidays to get them through the rest of the year.
How the giving season is going so far varies depending on the organization.
Scott Foley, regional director of the Children's Home Society of West Virginia, said charitable giving hasn't slowed down this year. It's not uncommon for the society to receive weekly monetary donations or items like clothing and small appliances.
"Just this morning we were helping someone unload an in-kind contribution of toys for the holiday season," Foley said earlier this week.
The Children's Home Society of West Virginia is a nonprofit child welfare organization and provides behavioral health, advocacy and social work services to children across the state. Foley said the organization hasn't experienced a drop in giving, even in economically tight times.
"It's a steady flow [here], and we can't thank the folks enough for doing that for us," Foley said.
At Covenant House in Charleston, cash donations are even with what they were at this time last year, executive director Ellen Allen said. Donations for food and clothing are probably up 25 percent compared with 2012, she said.
Covenant House relies on the community for 35 percent, or $350,000, of its annual budget, Allen said. The rest is government funding.
"We have to raise money each year to leverage it with federal grant money," Allen said. "Sequestration has significantly impacted all the nonprofits and grants are cut 5 to 12 percent at a time when the need for services is increasing."
Most of what the organization takes in from the community comes during the holidays, she said.
Expenses are rising for the organization, Allen said. More people are coming to the agency's drop-in center, where homeless people living outside can do laundry and get access to food, mail and other services. That means higher water and electric bills and other added expenses, she said. But the community is very giving, she said.
"I just know this community is very generous," she said. "This [agency] belongs to the community and we try to carry out the work that the community has asked us to do and we love doing it."
At Manna Meal, a downtown soup kitchen that feeds an average of 410 people each day, giving is up 5 to 10 percent from what it was at this time last year, executive director Jean Simpson said. The community donates about 97 percent of the agency's budget, she said. Most of that is raised during the fall and Christmas seasons.
Manna Meal is getting a lot of response from people taking advantage of the Neighborhood Investment Program from the state Department of Commerce, which gives people and businesses a state tax refund of half of their donation when they donate at least $500 to one of a variety of nonprofits that includes Manna Meal. Each of the organizations has a set number of vouchers to give out.
On the other hand, The Gabriel Project of West Virginia isn't seeing a lot of response from the tax credit program, executive director Donna Hawkins said.
The organization has only given out a fourth of its allotment so far, she said.
"If you give $500 or more you get half of it back," she said. "We have a lot of those to give and were finding it challenging. Either people are not aware that they can do this or just they can't afford to give that much money."
The Gabriel Project helps families and expectant mothers in need by providing items like car seats and cribs, formula, diapers and clothing. The organization relies on fundraising for its entire budget, Hawkins said.
At Daymark, an agency that operates a crisis shelter for youth as well as a group home and other programs, donations are given year-round, not just during the holidays, said executive director Vicki Pleasant.
"Most of the community understands what we do and have always supported our efforts," Pleasant said.
Other organizations aren't faring as well. Heart and Hand Community Service Center has seen a slow start to its holiday giving season. The first week of this year's toy collection fundraiser has brought in only $990 -- less than half of its first week in 2012, which brought in $2,500, according to Director Patty Tilley.
Tilley said Heart and Hand is seeing more of what they call "the working poor." Those who would ordinarily be able to give a few dollars on their way out of the grocery store are tightening their budgets this year.
"This year that $3 to $5 is food on their table or gas for work," Tilley said.
The organization has been collecting donations at the Riverwalk Kroger in South Charleston.
Heart & Hand functions as a thrift store and also provides support for people who have trouble paying their utility bills and rent, among other people.
"We've seen increases in our utility bills," Tilley said. "It doesn't seem like much until a family's bill goes up $20. [That] is a half a tank of gas if you're lucky."
Tilley said she has hopes that giving will pick up as Christmas nears. The organization makes appeals to those who have donated in the past, and it has other initiatives, such as a gift tree at Olive Garden, where people can choose from a variety of toys to donate.
"Even if someone can give a box of crayons, that's a blessing to us and for that child that's going to get it in a Christmas package," Tilley said.Reach Lori Kersey at lori.ker...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.
Reach Rachel Molenda at 304-348-5102 or rachel.mole...@wvgazette.com.