By John Toole
---- — New Hampshire charities are struggling through a challenging season of giving that threatens to undermine services to needy people.
The Salvation Army of Derry, just two weeks from Christmas, is only halfway to a $200,000 goal.
“Our kettle numbers are really low,” Lt. Kiley Williams said. “We are supposed to raise $200,000. We are only at $100,000.”
The fund drive is intended to raise money to help the charity throughout the year.
“That’s a big problem for us. We have to pay rent,” Williams said. “It is very concerning.”
The concern is for the 280 children and more than 130 families the Salvation Army serves in Derry, Londonderry and Windham.
Tags are still on angel trees. Those tags bear the age, gender and wish list of a child. Donors “adopt” a child and fill all or some of their requests.
“Going through last night, there were a couple of kids that may not get anything,” Williams said.
Sonshine Soup Kitchen in Derry also is running behind with donations.
“We have been lagging,” executive director Cynthia Dwyer said yesterday.
She hasn’t done an accounting of giving yet, but said it is off. She’s hoping for a rebound in the next few weeks.
“I have my fingers crossed,” she said.
The soup kitchen is serving a historical high of 60 meals a day, Dwyer said.
“Whether we are serving one person or 100, it makes a big difference to the one or the 100 who may not have another meal source,” Dwyer said.
Financial help would make a difference for the soup kitchen.
“Cash is what’s needed right now,” she said. “It costs $12,000 a month to run the soup kitchen.”
The Derry News Santa Fund drive has raised only $3,400 toward a $22,500 goal.
Charity leaders say a combination of factors — including the economy and the shortest calendar possible between Thanksgiving and Christmas — are hurting efforts.
The Adopt A Family program run by St. Anne’s Ecumenical Food Pantry has seen a recovery in giving, thanks to recent press coverage, program coordinator Aileen Wall said.
“I’d say now we actually are doing as well as previous years,” Wall said.
The program is helping 115 families, about 300 people, in Hampstead, Sandown, Danville and Atkinson.
The group feared giving would be down this year and that would be bad.
“We knew we had just as many families,” Wall said.
“We’re happy. Hopefully, the other charities will do better,” she said.
The Toys for Tots campaign, run by the Marine Corps in Londonderry, also has seen a rebound after a slow start.
Gunnery Sgt. Vince Donahue said collections turned the corner, thanks to TV and radio station drives last weekend.
“Our starting number was a lot lower than in the past,” Donahue said. “Now I think we’re a little better than last year.”
The Kingston Fire Department’s collection of toys and winter clothing has picked up, too.
“It was a little slow to start,” fire Chief Bill Seaman said. “But we just delivered a whole truckload to Town Hall.”
The department works with the town welfare office to aid needy families.
“What’s unique about our drive is all the toys go to Kingston kids,” Seaman said.
It’s never too late to give.
“Even if we get toys too late,” he said, “they hold on to them for families that get burned out during the year or for next year.”
The Pelham Good Neighbor Fund, heading into its big food collection weekend at Pelham Plaza, already has lined up all the sponsors needed for its Sponsor A Child program, president Frank Sullivan said.
“The town of Pelham has always been very responsive to our requests,” he said.
The program is helping more families than ever before, about 100, Sullivan said.
Donations are being encouraged and the charities aren’t by any means discouraged.
Williams said people can still be angels by picking up tags today or by donating to the kettle drive.
Her husband, Lt. Chris Williams, plans a 24-hour kettle ringing at Wal-Mart in Derry Dec. 20. People can donate to the drive online by visiting use.salvationarmy.org/Derry and clicking the donate now button.
A message from the charities is that while the season of giving is important to them, giving is of benefit to donors and those in need throughout the year.
“You can help a month from now, the need is there,” Williams said.
“Remember, there is just as great a need in June as there is in November and December,” she said.
Here's a look at some of the many ways people can help the needy: Derry Salvation Army, visit use.salvationarmy.org/Derry or call 434-7790. Sonshine Soup Kitchen, visit sonshinesoupkitchen.org/donations/food-donations or call 437-2833. Kingston Fire Department toy and clothing drive, call 642-3626. Pelham Good Neighbor Fund, P.O. Box 953, Pelham, 03076. Toys for Tots, visit londonderry-nh.toysfortots.org. Danville is collecting gifts for seniors through Dec. 18. Stop by Town Hall and pick up a tag. Derry News Santa Fund, visit secure.eagletribune.com/santafund/derry/. Eagle-Tribune Santa Fund, visit secure.eagletribune.com/santafund/.