CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For John Roberts, 2013 has been a struggle.
Roberts, director of the nonprofit Mountain Mission on Charleston's West Side, said his agency saw a decrease in donations this year. That, coupled with an increase in requests, means that Mountain Mission has had to turn people away -- something he said he never likes to do.
"It was a tough year for us. It's hard to look at a person and say, 'I'm sorry, but because of a dollar, or lack thereof, I can't do this for you,'" he said. "Sometimes we just have to, because we have to be here tomorrow; we have to so we can be here in the long-term, to help more families in the future."
The holiday season was still a success for the mission, though -- the agency was able to shore up enough money and in-kind donations to feed more than 1,300 families more than $100,000 worth of food for Christmas dinner.
"We prepare months in advance, and have several food drives and collections that make it possible," Roberts said. "It's great -- tiring, but very rewarding."
By mid-January, donations start to drop off, and usually don't pick up again until September, Roberts said, but regular donors and volunteers keep Mountain Mission going during that time.
"I think when things are going well, when the sun is shining and the storms are at bay, that sometimes we just take for granted that the whole world is OK," Roberts said. "And the fact is that there are storms of life that affect people every day, and one way to help people through those storms is to support organizations that do it every day."
The mission also operates two thrift stores and offers assistance with paying utilities, getting medications, medical assistance and medical transportation. It also has joined with Dollar Energy in its programs, which partner with utility companies to offer discounted rates to low-income customers.
"People don't choose to lose their job; people don't choose to have a reduction in salary; they don't choose to get sick," Roberts said. "We've dealt with people who've lost their jobs because they've received the news that they have cancer and need treatment. Where are they supposed to turn?"
According to Roberts, Mountain Mission has its own New Year's resolution, too -- to increase its volunteer base and encourage more companies to support the agency in 2014.
"We're working on establishing a volunteer rotation and having our volunteers work a certain number of hours a month, and creating our own appreciation dinner for our volunteers, because they give so much of their time," he said. "It would be sponsored by a business, hopefully, and we're working on orchestrating that right now."
Most charities and social service agencies see a jump in donations around the holidays. That includes the YWCA, one of Charleston's oldest and largest nonprofit organizations, which has a steady stream of donors year-round but sees a marked increase around Christmas and New Year's, according to communications director PK Khoury.