By Lauren Wanko
Americans are digging deep into their pockets and donating billions to charity.
“Unfortunately so many government programs are being cut back and it’s really up to the rest of us to step up and help out,” said thrift store shopper Nancy Grant.
Turns out, nationwide people are helping out. Americans gave an estimated $358.38 billion to charity last year — up 7.1 percent in current dollars according to this year’s Giving USA Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2014. It’s the highest total in the report’s 60-year history.
“Our private fundraising is up about 14 percent over last fiscal year,” said FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties Executive Director Carlos Rodriguez.
At the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, Rodriguez is grateful for the donations. He says that’s just financial support. It doesn’t include the food dropped off. Still their food distribution is up 58 percent over the last two years so they’re counting every penny.
“Every dollar provided to the Food Bank helps support three meals,” Rodriguez said.
In Belmar, volunteers at the Center Square Thrift Store are counting on people’s generosity too. They’re celebrating the store’s grand opening. The doors officially opened to shoppers Friday night. It’s part of Center House in Asbury Park — a non-profit that provides permanent, supportive housing for single adults living with HIV or AIDS, along with other resources to those in the community.
“We’re always looking for new ways to fund our mission. And then we also have an issue with funding being cut from both the federal government and local government so we really need to find and focus on new ways to bring in funds,” said The Center board member Kathleen Doney.
“A lot of people feel as if they need to give back, they may have had a loved one who passed away of AIDS or is sick with HIV and they’re doing their part,” said The Center Square Thrift Shop Manager Joey Straniero.
All of the items here are donated by either individuals or business owners. Eventually the Center hopes to expand the store so they can offer furniture too. In the meantime their goal is to turn over items as quickly as possible so they can constantly keep new merchandise on the shelves.
“Donations have been coming in on a daily basis,” Straniero said.
“We just rely totally on the volunteers, the generosity, the commitment and dedication of the people in the community,” Doney said.
With a store full of merchandise, the Center’s team is banking on generous people to keep their shelves stocked and money in the register.