Record donations amaze charities
By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Will Hoover
Dick Grimm, president of the Hawaii Foodbank, sat at his office desk this week, shuffled papers, clicked his computer mouse, and double-checked his calculations.
Satisfied with the results, he announced that the Foodbank's 2006 Food Drive had been the biggest in the agency's history.
Coupled with the recently completed National Association of Letter Carriers food drive, Grimm said the Foodbank had taken in nearly a million pounds of food — an unprecedented total.
Also, he said monetary donations this year are up 5 percent over this time last year.
"It always amazes me how giving the people of Hawai'i are," Grimm said, shaking his head.
"When you stop to consider how much money has left this community to take care of people who were hit by Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami in Southeast Asia, it's fantastic."
Meanwhile, at the Salvation Army, spokesman Daniel de Castro had good news of his own.
"We've had a 9 percent increase in the number of donors over last year," said de Castro, who, like Grimm, gave Hawai'i's legendary generosity all the credit.
It was only last September that officials at both the Hawaii Foodbank and Salvation Army, along with other major Island charities, were wringing their hands with fear that the Katrina disaster would swamp contributions for Hawai'i's own needy.
That didn't happen.
Because of all those extra donors, de Castro said, the agency has been able to serve 10 percent more people.
"And by the way, one of the greatest outpourings of aloha we've seen was when we asked for donations to be earmarked specifically for Katrina. And yet, they came through for people locally as well."
"Our contributions are up this year — certainly more than we thought they'd be at this time," said Coralie Chun Matayoshi, chief executive officer for the Hawai'i chapter of the American Red Cross.
Matayoshi said she preferred not to compare this year to last because the agency's current fiscal year has yet to end. Also, fund drives differ from year to year and unsolicited donations vary widely depending on variables including disasters such as Katrina. she said.
But she said she thought the additional donations could be due to the increased awareness, possibly as a result of Hawai'i's own recent flooding disasters.
Aloha United Way's major fund drive for the year won't begin until September, but agency president Susan Au Doyle said she also anticipates a successful campaign.
At the same time that Doyle and other charity leaders are pleasantly stunned by donor generosity, they are concerned that rising costs of shipping, gas, food and housing could cause a spike in the number of people eligible for services.
"We're going into pretty much uncharted waters this summer because of the number of people who are having trouble paying their rent and their mortgages," Grimm said.
In spite of Hawai'i's robust economy and record low unemployment rate, Doyle said an agency survey shows that 30 percent of Hawai'i's population is not self-sufficient.
"Just above the cut-off point there are people who are working but who aren't making enough to be self-sufficient," Doyle said, adding that these are people who find themselves increasingly having to choose between childcare and health insurance, rent and food, medicine and gas money.
"We're finding that the demands on our safety net are much higher than they have been in the past," added Lisa Cripe, the Aloha United Way's assistant vice president for marketing.
"We're going to have to raise more money to meet the growing needs."
Those growing needs include the escalating cost of doing business for the charities themselves.
While Grimm was pleased to mention his agency's contributions were up by 5 percent, he was less elated to point out a harsh, offsetting reality.
"Our operating expenses are up by the same amount of money," he said.
Reach Will Hoover at email@example.com.