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Friday, November 29th, 2013

Local charities see increase in giving, fewer requests for aid

By Doug Drexler
CELINA - Area charities are seeing an uptick in giving and a slight drop in requests for help.
The change comes from people feeling more comfortable in their own financial situation and confident the economy is really recovering, local charitable leaders said.
"Things seem to be getting better," said Glenn Hux, executive director of the Mercer County Civic Foundation. "People who feel they're OK, give back to the community.
"I think people are seeing a slow recovery and are convinced it is a recovery."
Charities also are being cautious in how much money they request, he added.
Requests for the group's unrestricted grants were $132,114 this year compared with $142,734 in 2012 and $221,180 in 2011. The group granted $71,500 this year, $70,600 in 2012 and $64,300 in 2011.
Mary Beougher, chair of the annual Celina Combined Services Appeal, is seeing similar trends. She said people who had received charitable services during the depth of the recent recession are now returning the favor as donors to the all-volunteer organization.
People learned the value of charitable organizations during their time of need and want to help others, she added.
Hux agreed.
"People who feel they're OK give back to the community," he said.  Combined Services is in the midst of its annual drive with a goal of $125,000 - the same it sought and surpassed last year. About $75,000 has been pledged so far, Beougher said. Several large employers - Honda in Anna, which matches employees contributions, and Celina Insurance Group, which has a one-day pledge sign-up event, haven't yet made pledges.
The slow economic recovery and Mercer County's low unemployment rate have created a larger need in some ways, Hux said. The county's jobless rate - the lowest in the state for two years - has made it tougher for local groups to net funding from the state or elsewhere, he said.
Also, many people who previously were unemployed are finding their new jobs pay less and have fewer benefits, particularly insurance, Hux said.
"People go back to work, but not at the same level," he added.
The implementation of the Affordable Care Act may put a damper on donations because people aren't sure how much they will be paying for health insurance, he said. As those costs become more apparent, many people likely will make adjustments in donations.
Hux thinks the government shutdown may have spurred giving - people who were afraid the action would raise taxes made donations to lower their assets and get a charitable deduction in case the tax break was eliminated.
The economic recovery also has led to financial growth in investment income, Hux said.
"Our investments have grown," he said. "We spread out our investments conservatively."
The foundation also handles directed donations, those spent for certain purposes such as creating a scholarship fund or helping a particular charity. The foundation ensures tax and legal guidelines are met for charitable organizations.
Hux and Beougher noted the slight pace of the economic recovery has kept charities cautious in their requests.
"People are happy with what they got last year," Hux said. "They just want to hold their own."
Beougher said requests this year from Combined Services' 21 agencies are nearly the same as 2012. The charities are grateful for what they receive, she said.
"They're not over-dipping," Beougher said.
Both leaders stressed that funds collected stay local.
"If you want to help the Mercer County community, this is the place to go," Hux said.
The foundation board focuses on spending its grants inside the county unless someone specifically asks their donation go to an outside agency.
"We do whatever we can to keep the funds in Mercer County," he said.
Beougher said donors want their dollars to help neighbors.
"The community supports the community. People like to know where their money's going," she said.
Additional online story on this date
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