The frustration of seasonal giving

"Helping the homeless" by Ed Yourdon from New York City, USA - Helping the homelessUploaded by Gary Dee. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
“Helping the homeless” by Ed Yourdon from New York City, USA – Helping the homeless was originally uploaded by Gary Dee and licensed under Creative Commons

There’s a problem with the holiday season of giving. When the season ends the giving stops.

The holiday season is fast approaching and people begin to share time with loved ones and many people take time to give back to those who are less fortunate. But what if the only time you give back is during the holiday season?

The frustration of seasonal giving is one well-known for food banks and homeless shelters throughout Arizona.

Jerry Brown, public relations director for St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance in Phoenix, stresses that giving back is the easiest thing. “People can give an hour of their time or a whole day to giving back,” said Brown.

Brown shares that this is the first year that the community food bank doesn’t have enough volunteers.

“There has been an increase in food supplies and food intake but there’s a significant drop in volunteers. People just assume that we have all the volunteers that we need but it’s not the case,” Brown said.

In previous years the food bank has turned away volunteers.

The demand for volunteers is high and organizations throughout the state are trying to remain a priority within their local communities.

Shawna Kroh, public relations director of the Salvation Army in Tucson, strives to make its organization visible throughout the year via media outlets and advertising, Kroh shares some of the possible reasons why people only give seasonally.

“During the holidays people get more time in their schedules and that helps them get into the giving spirit,” says Kroh. “Salvation Army does see an increase of volunteers and donations throughout this time.”

This increase is a vital component for any organization but the desire to serve withers after the holiday decorations come down. For instance the Salvation Army needs donations and volunteers in the summer and winter months to help the homeless. Toward the end of summer the organization needs supplies for the back-to-school months.

For Shari Chamblee, Women’s Ministry Leader at Grace Fellowship Church and volunteer around the Tucson community, knows first hand the negative effects seasonal giving can have.

“Seasonal volunteers want to give back but on their own terms,” Chamblee says. “You know the people who only give back to come off as a good person rather than giving back to help someone in need.”

Chamblee gives back every week, helping her church distribute Backpack Ministries, a program that provides food for the needy families of students in the Vail School District. Every week a backpack is delivered to a child’s school filled with food for the week.

She encourages seasonal givers to make it a yearly occasion. “It is truly better to give than receive,” said Chamblee. “I am loving people who think that they’re unlovable and helping them see their worth while meeting their needs.”

Volunteers are fueled by the passion to help others in need, Kroh believes that people only seasonal give back not from a lack of passion but the lack of time their schedule omits. “It’s hard to work past the holidays. But a way to do so is by scheduling in volunteer time as a meeting or event in their calendar,” says Kroh. “Making an effort to set a time and a day to help an organization will help keep giving back a priority.”

Bryan Namba, executive director of the University of Arizona’s Volunteer UA, used to have a similar problem making time, but now he devotes time weekly to give back to the community. Namba recently became a Big Brother through the Big Brother Big Sister organization and says that giving back doesn’t just help out others but helps you connect with community.

“Challenge yourself to do more and encourage others to contribute year round,” Namba said.

Connie Rosas is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News Service from the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach her at connierosas@email.arizona.edu

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