This is a story about generosity.
Every Christmas season, Beacon Journal readers answer the call of scores of charities that publicize their needs in the paper. The charities tell us what they need in terms of donations and volunteers, and we disseminate their requests through a daily listing called People Helping People.
Today, we bring that listing back for the 13th year.
People Helping People is a way of connecting people with the causes that need their help. And from what the charities tell us, the response is heartening.
One of those charities is Good Neighbors, an Akron organization that supplies clothing, emergency food supplies and support to people in crisis.
“Last year, I couldn’t believe how many people called” after Good Neighbors’ need for peanut butter and personal care items was published in People Helping People, said Debi Foss, its administrative assistant and treasurer. “It seemed like the whole month of December” people were calling to ask where they could bring donations.
But folks didn’t stop with those items. Some brought in other nonperishable foods, clothing and toys to Good Neighbors’ central office in Goodyear Heights, Foss said. Others mailed about $1,000 in financial contributions.
And Foss noted that doesn’t even include the contributions that were made to Good Neighbors’ five other locations.
Any time the charity is mentioned in the paper, “the response is overwhelming,” she said.
At Blick Clinic, donations were still coming in about a month ago as a result of last year’s People Helping People, said Karin Lopper-Orr, its executive director.
Blick Clinic, which provides a variety of services to people with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities, received several gift cards as well as new and gently used craft supplies, Lopper-Orr said. One woman dropped off 10 games at one of the clinic’s residential facilities, where they were so welcome that the games never made it to the central office.
If the clinic received something it couldn’t use, Lopper-Orr passed it along to a charity that could. She recalled getting a stash of fabric from one donor, some of which she kept and the rest she passed on to the Haven of Rest for its Lydia’s Purse project, which teaches women how to design and sew tote bags.
Donations of craft supplies are especially appreciated, because Blick Clinic’s clients go through so many of them. “Anything we get donated is something I don’t have to buy,” Lopper-Orr said.
Teri Dwyer can’t quantify the exact effect People Helping People has had on the Eastern Ohio Chapter of the Pajama Program, an organization that collects new pajamas and books for children in shelters and group homes. But she does know that last year the chapter collected more than 7,000 sets of pajamas after its need for donations and volunteers to hold pajama drives was publicized in the paper — about 3,000 more than the previous year, she said.
“That’s a lot of pajamas,” said Dwyer, the chapter’s president.
People Helping People was the brainchild of Beacon Journal Features Editor Lynne Sherwin, who knew people were always looking for opportunities to help charities around the holidays but also knew finding the right causes could be challenging. The listing is intended to help match donors and volunteers with the charities that interest them.
From the start, the listing proved popular. The first year, more than 200 charitable organizations and causes submitted their wish lists for everything from infant formula to office space, and the number has continued to grow.
People Helping People lists only nonprofit charitable efforts, but the submitters don’t have to be nonprofit organizations. Businesses, institutions and even just groups of friends are welcome to publicize their charitable endeavors, as long as the purpose is to help others and the organizers don’t profit from those efforts.
Neither is People Helping People limited to, well, people. Charitable efforts that benefit animals are also invited to be part of the listing.
The listing works because it reaches the demographic that charities rely on, said Ken Zehenni, a marketing professional who serves as a board member and volunteer at the Peter Maurin Center. Largely, that’s people from their early 50s to mid-60s, who have the time and resources to help, he said.
He estimated that last year, People Helping People brought five new volunteers to the center, which feeds and ministers to homeless people. Without the listing, “we probably couldn’t reach half the eyeballs” or attract half the volunteers and donors that it does, Zehenni said.
People, it seems, really do want to help people.
Mary Beth Breckenridge can be reached at 330-996-3756 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MBBreckABJ, follow her on Twitter @MBBreckABJ and read her blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/mary-beth.