EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 27, 2012

Holiday giving is on the rise in N.H.

By John Toole
jtoole@eagletribune.com

---- — People are spending and giving more this holiday season.

Analysts say people spent more for holiday gifts on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

New Hampshire charities contacted yesterday — on Giving Tuesday — said people are giving more, too.

“Which is good,” said Lt. Kiley Williams of the Salvation Army in Derry. “We need more.”

“We’re doing a little bit better,” said Lt. Chris Williams, her husband and colleague.

The Salvation Army isn’t alone.

“We have seen an increase in generosity already,” said Kimberly Bavaro, executive director of The Upper Room in Derry.

Retailers count on Black Friday to make their season – and bottom line – bright. It’s followed by Cyber Monday, treated as a benchmark for holiday online shopping.

Enter Giving Tuesday, charitable organizations’ response and a reminder the holiday season isn’t all about toys under the tree. It’s also about the spirit of giving to those in need.

Charities aren’t closely watching yesterday’s numbers, but they are aware of how the season for giving is shaping up and how much people are helping this year.

“We have seen approximately a 12 percent increase in donations this year,” about $2,280, Bavaro said. Six percent of the Upper Room’s budget last year – about $19,000 – came from donations.

The family resource center provides gifts and food to families, but also education and wellness programs. The center served 13,000 families last year and is on track to serve more than 15,000 this year.

Not only are more families in need, their problems are more complicated, Bavaro said. Before, a teen may have been coping with pregnancy. Now, they might also have dropped out of school and become addicted to drugs.

“The issues people are facing are more complex,” she said.

The Salvation Army is providing help and services to about 100 families, including more than 250 children.

Chris Williams said they have raised about $50,000 so far this year, compared to $40,000 to $45,000 at the same time a year ago.

“We’re about the same,” he said. “But our goal is a little higher: $240,000. Last year, it was $215,000.”

Clients often have just lost jobs and are paying for what they can to survive, forced to decide whether to buy groceries or cover the rent, Kiley Williams said.

“They are picking and choosing,” she said.

Val Lewis is heading the ninth annual coat drive for Prudential Verani offices in Southern New Hampshire, including Londonderry and Salem.

“It seems like people are giving more,” she said. “We are starting to see a bit more and nice things, too.”

The warm clothing collected at the real estate offices is shared with church and civic groups that aid people in need.

This year, some clothing is being sent for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts in the New York area.

“There is a big need,” Lewis said. “Especially for men’s coats.”

Aileen Wall, coordinator of the adopt-a-family Christmas program run through St. Anne’s Ecumenical Food Pantry in Hampstead, agreed people are giving more this year.

The program provides clothing, gift cards, even kitchen items for families at Christmas. More than 100 families will be helped, some with eight people to a household.

“I don’t have everybody on my list covered, but I hope to by mid-December,” Wall said yesterday.

The positive signs of giving aren’t limited to individuals.

Lt. Joel Dolan, coordinator for the Salem Police Department’s Toys for Tots drive, is seeing increased support from the business community.

“I would say we have had more companies call for boxes to set up,” he said. “This is probably the most boxes we’ve had out in the community.”

It’s too soon to say what they will mean for the popular toy drive, but it’s an encouraging sign.

“People are more interested in getting involved,” Dolan said.