COLUMBIA — In the year's economic downturn, no area appears left untouched. Service organizations, however, are caught in a difficult spot with both decreasing resources and increasing demand.
Cutbacks in many statewide assistance programs have also affected some of the most vulnerable citizens, such as the elderly and low-income families. Those families are turning to service organizations.
According to GuideStar, a database that gathers information about nonprofits, 64 percent of nonprofits have seen an increase in demand for their services this year. Columbia is mirroring that trend.
This concern was made clear at the December meeting of the Columbia Interfaith Council, a forum that, as president John Prenger said, "serves the physical, spiritual and emotional needs of Columbia." This forum is a place where faith groups and service organizations come together to discuss what is going on in the community.
Rachael Krall, representative of the St. Francis House Community, said, "We're seeing a lot more homeless people that are young. They're homeless for the first time, and scared."
Marcia Walker, representing Meals on Wheels and Angel Food Ministries, said the need is growing as people face more financial problems. The budget for Meals on Wheels is facing a $20,000 deficit in the coming year, she said.
“We are serving more meals, and people are paying less for them because their income is lower,” Walker said, adding that they are seeing more younger clients who don’t qualify for Social Security assistance.
At the Russell Church food pantry, one of the agencies of the Central Missouri Food Bank where people come to pick up the food, Cindy Mustard said, "Food is flying off the shelves. We try to stretch what we can, but it's hard."
Mike DeSantis, marketing coordinator of the Central Missouri Food Bank, said the pantry is also serving more people — 25 percent more than last year. "This is one of the most challenging times we've had as an organization," DeSantis said.
Donations and volunteering with local groups often increase during the holiday season.
"More people step forward at this time because it’s fresh on their minds," Prenger said.
For people looking for opportunities to serve or make year-end donations, there are many places in Columbia that could use help. A few examples include:
- The Interfaith Day Center, a place where the homeless can come for shelter during the day, is in need of blankets, gloves and men’s underwear. They also accept Target gift cards, as Target does not sell alcohol or cigarettes. Those can be dropped off at 901 Rangeline St.
- Russell Church food pantry, or any food pantry in Columbia, could use more monetary or nonperishable food donations. Russell Church is at 108 E. Ash St. The Central Missouri Food Bank, which distributes food to 33 Missouri counties, is located at 2101 Vandiver Drive.
- The Boone County Council on Aging needs volunteers to shovel snow in the coming months to make the sidewalks more accessible for Columbia's senior adults. They can be reached at 443-1111 for more information, or by e-mailing Volunteer Coordinator Kortney Sebben at firstname.lastname@example.org.