EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 2, 2014

Donations still needed for hungry, homeless

Shelters, soup kitchens often struggle as winter bears down

By Doug Ireland
direland@eagletribune.com

---- — Organizations that help the hungry and homeless were pleased with holiday donations, but they’re concerned donations will drop off now that the holidays are over.

As winter settles in, shelters, soup kitchens and food pantries continue to need help to feed, clothe and shelter the needy in the cold months ahead.

“It does get difficult,” said Kathi Clark of Lazarus House in Lawrence. “We do see a significant drop in donations.”

Lazarus House traditionally receives one-third of its donations in December alone — more than $1 million, Clark said.

January is a different story, she said.

“It’s a struggle,” Clark said. “Even though giving is down, the need increases this time of year.”

Three months ago, Lazarus House was feeding nearly 800 families a week. Now, they’re feeding about 1,000 families a week, Clark said. The homeless shelter has been at capacity, she said.

At Emmaus Inc. in Haverhill, chief development director Gretchen Arntz said holiday donors were generous. That helped feed and shelter several hundred people on a regular basis.

Emmaus also received plenty of toys for Christmas, she said.

“People in the community were super generous,” Arntz said. “While we don’t need toys right now, what we really continue to need is money.”

Snow and freezing temperatures make it especially challenging, she said.

“Our goal is to make sure no one perishes in extreme weather,” Arntz said.

In Southern New Hampshire, Sonshine Soup Kitchen and Greater Family Promise of Rockingham County work to feed the hungry and help the homeless.

Every day, five days a week, roughly 45 people eat at the Derry soup kitchen. That’s up from about 40 a day in November, executive director Cynthia Dwyer said.

Donations haven’t decreased yet, Dwyer said, but that will probably change come mid-January.

“It will slow down pretty quickly,” she said. “We will have to live off the fat for a while.”

At Greater Family Promise of Rockingham County in Derry, three families — six children and three parents — are receiving help with food and shelter.

That help is made possible through donations from local residents, including a few who donated $400 to $500, according to Family Promise president Melanie Neisheim.

The organization received thousands of dollars in donations this holiday season, but more is always needed to carry out its mission, she said.

“Donations continue to be important to us, even after the holidays,” she said. “It’s hard for families because fuel costs are higher (in the winter).”

All the organizations are accepting donations through their websites: Lazarushouse.org, Emmausinc.org, Sonshinesoupkitchen.org and FamilyPromiseGRC.org.