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Local charities brace for economy slow down, slower giving

Amanda Hammon, Appeal Staff Writer

With a fund-raiser planned just four days after the nation was stunned by the terrorist attacks in the East Coast, Carson City Senior Center officials considered canceling their annual Bluegrass Festival.

Marti Olson, senior services manager, said officials feared people would forget that Carson City seniors needed a way to pay for lunch, especially with the blitz of national fund-raising campaigns.

“We were hoping people would be able to separate in their minds that seniors in Carson City still needed to be fed even though there was this tragic event back East,” Olson said.

The event usually garners around $3,300. Hosted at the Governor’s Mansion on Sept. 15, this year’s event brought in $10,000.

“It gets us farther out of the red,” Olson said. “I think it seems like people were more responsive, more sensitized to other people’s sufferings.”

As local groups raise money for victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, some local non-profit entities are preparing for a time of slower giving from the community.

Joe McCarthy, executive director of the Brewery Arts Center, said his staff is reevaluating its budget to trim some costs as they watch the economy slow down. The annual Beer Tasting and Auction held Sept. 14 earned a fraction of its planned $20,000. With the accounting yet to be completed, McCarthy said he expects the event pulled in around $6,000, of which about $2,000 will go to the Carson City Fire Department’s New York firefighter relief fund.

“It wasn’t wildly successful, therefore we’re a little cash poor,” McCarthy said. “I’m not disappointed considering it happened three days after a huge attack on America. It’s understandable it wasn’t as successful as it could have been.”

McCarthy said he isn’t especially worried about people donating to the program in the future, saying Carson City residents are not redirecting their giving. They’ve simply increased it to respond to a national need, he said.

“In times like this, communities need the arts more than ever,” he said. “It’s way too early to tell if there’s going to be a profound effect on charitable giving. I have too much faith in our local community that they wouldn’t direct money away from their local community.”

Tuesday, the Children’s Museum found itself for the first time in years with nary a customer. Museum Executive Director Denise Sins said last weekend, the museum decided to donate 25 percent of its gift shop revenue to the Carson City firefighter effort.

“We earned $30 — that’s how few people were here,” she said. “We’re going to donate $50 despite that.”

Sins is hoping Carson City residents don’t forget local entities needing support, although she understands “people aren’t spending as much time on fun, pleasurable things.” The museum has a puppet workshop for children over 12 scheduled for the first three weeks of October followed with a Halloween puppet performance. However, at least 10 people need to sign up for the $10 workshop in puppet design, and there’s not one on the list, Sins said. For information, call the Children’s Museum at 775-884-2226.

Lisa Lee, executive director of Advocates to End Domestic Violence, said she hasn’t seen any lack of giving at the group’s thrift store, Classy Seconds. She is “very, very concerned” as Advocates gears up for its annual letter request fund-raiser in November.

“In one day two weekends ago, I made four donations,” Lee said. “If I spent money I wasn’t anticipating on spending, what about other people? A lot of people are are looking, financially, whether they’ll have a job. They’re giving in a time they didn’t anticipate giving.”

Rather than creating a cash-poor situation for some local charities, it could help, Lee said.

“If people are already used to giving, we may do well,” she said. “People are more conscious of what’s important. If they’re not able to give money, maybe they can give of time.”