Give A Christmas 2021: Bucks County has been generous to local nonprofits. The help is needed now more than ever

Bucks County has heart.

In the face of runaway inflation, natural disasters, and the continued public health and economic fallout of COVID-19, Bucks County residents have, on the whole, continued providing ample support to area nonprofits.

While every organization’s experience is different and some have been better supported than others, that’s the general positive word from leaders at a number of area nonprofits. They’re hopeful the trend will continue and accelerate now that the holiday season is in full swing.

Giving Tuesday, an annual global initiative that encourages donating money, time and/or resources to worthy organizations and causes, falls on Tuesday, Nov. 30. It presents an excellent opportunity to jumpstart the altruistic outreach to Bucks County nonprofits in the run up to Christmas.

“I think folks would be surprised to see what a difference every gift makes to us,” said Marissa Christie, president/CEO of United Way of Bucks County. “We have donors who give a little and donors who give a lot. And it all matters. It all helps strengthen our entire community.”

Christie noted that December is a crucial time for nonprofits in their efforts to continue generating the funds necessary to operate their missions.

“Our community support remains very strong, but most nonprofits — including ours — won’t know how 2021 really went until Dec. 31,” she said. “More than 30% of all annual giving happens in December.”

On Giving Tuesday last year, United Way of Bucks County experienced a “big bump” in donations thanks to a weeklong fundraising campaign that included a matching gift from locals Simon and Jane Hallett. Some 276 donors contributed during the campaign in 2020. United Way is orchestrating a similar initiative with the Halletts through Giving Tuesday this year.

“We can’t serve the people we need to serve without donations from our friends and neighbors in Bucks County,” Christie said. “We count on those end-of-year gifts so that we can feed people who are hungry, provide a path home for those experiencing homelessness, ensure that all children enter school ready to learn, and give hard-working families the opportunities they need to thrive, now and in the future.”

Joseph Cuozzo shares similar sentiments.

He’s director of development at Doylestown-based Bucks County Opportunity Council, the lead anti-poverty agency in Bucks County, focusing on combatting poverty and promoting economic self-sufficiency. He said that donations of both money and essentials like food supplies are the marrow of the organization.

Fortunately, Bucks Countians have continued to provide BCOC with robust support. Through Nov. 14, for instance, the council had received more than $1 million in donations thanks to 1,488 gifts —  a 27% increase in the number of donations and 48% increase in the amount relative to the comparable period the year prior.

While Giving Tuesday hasn’t, in the past, been a huge impetus for donations at BCOC, the organization annually administers, in partnership with The Intelligencer, the Give A Christmas initiative during the final months of the year.

Benefitting low-income people in Central and Upper Bucks County, as well as Eastern Montgomery County and the North Penn and Indian Valley, the fund provides people in need with help buying gifts and groceries, as well as paying for rent, medicine, bills and utility expenses.

Money not used during the holiday period is put to good use helping BCOC — and Souderton-based Keystone Opportunity Center, which gets 10% of the proceeds — to assist folks throughout the year. In 2020, local donors powered a record donation amount of more than $261,000, a tally organizers would love to surpass this year.

“If someone wants to make the world a better place, they have to give their time, their talent and/or their treasure,” says Cuozzo. “People in Bucks County have been very generous and respond to people in need. It’s important that continues this holiday season.”

Family Service Association of Bucks County is hoping for the same.

The nonprofit offers a variety of programs and services focused on increasing opportunities for adults, protecting seniors, reducing substance use, improving the lives of people with mental illness and those living with HIV/AIDS, and more.

Reliant on community support to advance its mission, the organization has scored some notable success with fundraising of late. That includes generating about $84,500 from an annual golf outing in October; the total was a record for the event. In April, Family Service Association raised about $377,000 through an annual benefit, held virtually due to COVID, for its Bucks County Emergency Homeless Shelter. The amount was also a record.

“Beyond these events, monetary donor support appears to be on pace with past years, but the year is not over yet and continued support is so important, as donor support and grant funding are our financial lifelines,” said Brian Treanor, Family Service’s grants and communications manager.

The money is used to help locals in desperate need of need a leg up — which is also the goal of the Bucks County Courier Times’ and Bristol-Levittown Kiwanis’ annual Give A Christmas fund.

“The majority of our clients are living well-below the national poverty line,” said Treanor. “In the past year, we provided over 330 people with shelter, 1,200 families with nutrition from our food pantry, over 19,000 individuals with crisis support via our Contact Help Line and Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and over 1,600 folks with counseling for substance use and mental health disorders.”

Treanor noted that Family Service Association of Bucks County holds an annual Giving Tuesday initiative that helps generate revenue. It’s part of broader, ongoing efforts aimed at raising awareness to spur community support.

“We have a very dynamic social media presence, and we host week and monthlong fundraisers throughout the year in support of such causes as Suicide Prevention Week/Month, where we exceeded a month-long established goal in less than two weeks,” Treanor said. “So while we do anticipate donor activity on Giving Tuesday, it is one of many occasions where we ask our donors to step up at various levels and support our mission, which is to listen, care and help.”

Keystone Opportunity Center in Montgomery County runs a like-minded mission, helping community members in need by offering a comprehensive array of social services that educate, encourage and empower them to become self-sufficient.

Malcolm Friend, Keystone’s director of resource development, says that the pandemic has presented new challenges to generating community support for the organization, including having to put certain fundraising events on hold or to operate others virtually. “Donors we once could always rely upon have reached out to Keystone Opportunity Center in need,” Friend said.

That’s a key reason why he’s asking the community to come through again in 2021 to support Give A Christmas in the same powerful manner as in 2020.

Said Friend: “We are ever thankful for the wonderful generosity of community members who recognize that children, adults and seniors are hurting more so this holiday season, and that they can help by supporting Give A Christmas.

— Chris Ruvo, Special to The Intelligencer

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