Fighting the Post-Holiday Donation Hangover

By: Elizabeth Schilder Email
By: Elizabeth Schilder Email

The Salvation Army's famous "Red Kettle Campaign" is about to close and without those merry bells reminding us to donate, many of us will just forget. For area food pantries that can spell empty shelves and hungry people.

"Just because the holidays are over doesn't mean that the people stop coming to the pantries," Director of The Neighbors' Place Tom Rau explained.

For Rau and the people at The Neighbors' Place in Wausau, the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas set the tone for the new year.

"Between Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years is a time when people really think about how fortunate they are and how there are people in our community that are not that fortunate. It's a time when giving really increases," Rau told NewsChannel 7.

Four of five truck loads of food was donated to the pantry this holiday season. A supply that Rau estimates will last them only until mid February. That's when they need the community's help.

"We're happy to let them have a couple weeks rest and recover from all the holiday celebrations and the family visits, but then we'd like them to think about us again... If you can remember a little bit in the middle of January and start doing regular donations again to your food pantries, thinking about bringing food in, that's really helpful to us," Rau encouraged.

During these cold winter months, food pantries need items like instant oatmeal and warm soup more than other time of the year. They're also always looking for fresh produce. At The Neighbors' Place they even accept perishable food donations like meat and dairy. If you're planning on donating a traditional non-perishable item, Rau advises to stick with things that can easily be microwaved because many people don't have stoves.

This year The Neighbors' Place needs more help than ever before, as the number of people using their pantry grew more than 15%.

"We've seen some closings of different companies. People have lost their jobs. A lot of times that doesn't really kick in for us until 5 or 6 months after that happens. So we expect to see some new people coming again at the end of January, beginning of February," Rau explained.

This influx of people will happen just as those Christmas donations begin to run low. But regardless, Rau is optimistic.

"We know that if we work together, the way that we always have in this community, it's a problem we can take care of," Rau said.

On an average week, The Neighbors' Place feeds more than 2,000 families. Rau said with the looming fiscal cliff it's likely they'll see even more families in 2013.

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