WAKE FOREST — As the holidays draw near, giving is on is on the minds of many, especially as families struggle with the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation.
Charitable giving in North Carolina is on the rise, according to the N.C. Secretary of State Charitable Solicitation Licensing Annual Report. From July 1, 2021 to June 30, donations to charities grew almost 40 percent from the previous year. Fundraisers garnered more than $47.5 million, $13.5 million more than collected in 2020-21.
Of the money raised by charities, 81.79 percent went toward charitable programs instead of funding other professional or administrative costs. This remains the highest proportion of money used toward charity in the report’s 22-year history.
“As North Carolinians have faced incredible challenges due to global economic disruptions and the lingering effects of the COVID pandemic, their neighbors across the state have responded with unmatched generosity,” Secretary of State Elaine Marshall said in a statement.
The Tri-Area Ministry Food Pantry in Wake Forest always welcomes charitable donations. The nonprofit has seen an uptick in the number of families they serve. The ministry’s board chairman, Mike Burger, said at the end 2021 the organization served just under 1,000 families. This year, they serve about 1,500.
“What we are seeing now is an awful lot of families that never before were in a situation where they needed help to feed their families,” Burger said.
The Tri-Area Ministry Food Pantry has served the area since 1988, providing non-perishable and fresh food to families in need, with no restrictions or proof of residency needed.
Inflation not only affects families, but also the food bank as they buy most of the fresh foods they distribute — such as fruits, vegetables and dairy items, Burger said.
“We have sort of the double whammy,” Burger said. “We have more families coming to see us, and the food that we’re purchasing is that much more expensive, as well.”
If the trend of increasing need continues, Burger said, the continuous support of the community remains vital to the nonprofit’s operation to ensure it doesn’t have to give families less food or cap its services to a certain number of families.
“We don’t want to do either of those things,” Burger said. “So, we’ve been very fortunate that the community has continued to support us so that we have enough food and enough money to buy food when we need it. I count our blessings on that every day.”
Throughout the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, Burger said, people seem to get into the giving spirit and provide ample donations. Though the organization is deeply grateful for any donation, more are often required at other times during the year.
“We get a ton of donations this time of the year, and we are grateful for that because all of the stuff is non-perishable, so it’ll last,” Burger said. “But what happens in January is that the calendar and life moves on, and the level of donations dramatically drops off by comparison to the holiday season.“
The food pantry sees a small increase in traffic around Thanksgiving but, Burger said, food insecurity is a year-round issue.
Burger recommends that people willing to donate also provide donations during the spring months, when surpluses from the holidays dwindle. Still, Burger stressed the organization appreciated any donation at any time of year.
Three ways community members can support the food pantry include volunteering their time, donating non-perishable food or donating money, Burger said.
Burger said people deciding between a monetary or food donation choose to give money this holiday season.
“I would prefer monetary donations because we have so much food that the dollars are better reserved at this time of year for when the supplies start to thin out and we have to go out and purchase,” Burger said.
“We have the good fortune and the blessing of being very, very, well-supported by our community,” Burger said. “And so we pride ourselves on the fact that we never turn anybody away, so we always have food for everyone that comes and we have been able to keep that pledge that we’ll have enough supply.”