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Charity directors urge giving all year round

While Christmas is a time to give gifts, some area charity directors say people need to take more time to give of themselves the whole year round.

"The time for giving is 365 days a year," said Jean Simpson, executive director of the Manna Meal program in Charleston.

Manna Meal, located at St. John's Episcopal Church on Quarrier Street in Charleston, has been feeding the hungry since 1978.

As they do every day, they will be serving breakfast from 8 to 9 a.m. and lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

About 130 people volunteer each week at the charity, which feeds about 380 people per day. But the normal volunteers will have a few days off this week.

That's because the organization gets bombarded with requests from families wishing to help those less fortunate during the holidays.

"We've had Christmas Eve and Christmas Day booked with volunteers since October," Simpson said.

They have been turning down requests for help ever since.

While Simpson said she welcomed the offers, she wished it happened on more than just a few days per year.

 "I think it's wonderful they do this, but we need this every day a year," Simpson said.

She said society as a whole would be better off if people incorporated include some form of charity or act of kindness into their daily routine.

"That's what we need to learn to do, to give back to each other every day all the time," Simpson said. "I think people need to be aware that they need to put in their daily chores some type of daily giving to others and concentrate on that."

Salvation Army Captain Aaron Goldfarb agrees.

Each year, Salvation Army volunteers pan out in force ringing bells in front of collection buckets to help fund the organization's charity programs.

But this year, Goldfarb had fewer people out ringing bells.

"We had more volunteers last year, and those volunteers actually, for the most part, showed up," Goldfarb said. "This year we had a lot of families show up and say let me ring the bell and we would get there at 5 o'clock and the family would not arrive."

While he was grateful for those that did show up and offer their time, he said the smaller army of volunteers hurt the organization's ability to achieve its fundraising goal.

"Our goal this year is $225,000," Goldfarb said Friday. "It looks we're going to fall about $10,000 to $13,000 below what we need to get."

The Christmas funds drive helps the Salvation Army run its charitable programs year-round.

"We have one shot to raise the money for Christmas," he said.

But some of the funds collected this year have already been spent on supplementing the organization's Christmas food and toy drives.

Goldfarb said the group has already spent $30,000 buying Christmas dinner food vouchers to distribute among the Charleston command's four-county area.

Officials also spent nearly $20,000 worth of toys and clothing to provide gifts through the Army's Angel Tree giving program for children.

"We had about 100 angels that didn't get adopted this year, which is more than any other year," Goldfarb said.

However, he said that just because Christmas is at hand, it doesn't mean they won't take any more donations. They still need resources for their non-holiday charitable programs.

"We still want to encourage folks, it's still not too late," Goldfarb said. "We're going to need some additional funds if we're going to help people.

"Because we're going to have our doors open December 26, and we're going to be providing services like we always do, and if we don't get donations, at some point we're going to have to say, 'We have no funds,'" he said.

 Goldfarb said he plans to push hard January through September to gear up for next year's Christmas season.

Like Simpson, he hopes people can make a conscious effort to rekindle the volunteer spirit in their community.

"Encourage your friends or show your children that volunteerism is still alive," he said. "Our community is good because of people who volunteer - that's the bottom line."

Contact writer Jared Hunt at or 304-348-5148. 


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