Charities need cash, not kind, at Christmas

13 Nov
Volunteers are always needed, but cash is harder to get at this time of year

Volunteers are always needed, but cash is harder to get at this time of year

By Aasha Purling, Bond University Journalism Student

Gold Coast charities and outreach programs have been so inundated with calls and applications from volunteers this holiday season that they are now turning people away.

Unlike the usual shortage of helpers, Christmas relief programs are over capacity across the board, and instead are asking for money rather than workers.

Long-term social activist Amanda Evans said three programs, including her local church, had rejected her efforts to lend a hand this holiday season.

“I was looking for a way to spend my time at home and Christmas seems like a good time to get amongst it,” Ms Evans said.

“There is a better mix of volunteers at this time of year. I just thought it would be nice but they said they don’t need me – only my money.”

The Smith Family Christmas Appeal co-ordinator Bron Roberts said monetary donations were usually more needed than manpower at this time of year.

“While we appreciate everyone’s willingness to contribute, our finances only spread so far,” Ms Roberts said.

“To create volunteer roles within the community we need funding.

“We’re already over capacity for our current budget but to reach those in need, it’s money we need right now.”

Emma Trapski from Volunteering Gold Coast puts the influx of volunteers down to a heightened awareness for the community and a giving spirit, particularly around the holiday season.

“There’s not the same “warm and fuzzy” when people donate money,” she said.

“They want to donate their time so they can see the difference they are making to their community and they want to be involved.”

Ms Trapski also said that donations were harder to come by at the festive season, despite the public being more socially aware during this season of giving.

“Christmas is tight for families and we know that. Most people prefer to spend their bonuses on gifts for the kids because they get to see the smiles.”

“Even though we see a lot of generosity from our donors, it tends to dwindle when they don’t directly benefit from their contribution so we’re looking for ways to connect our volunteers and the families we’re trying to help.”

Spokespersons from the Red Cross, Salvation Army and Smith Family agreed casual commitment with a “personal connection” was most popular among their seasonal helpers.

Top preferences included gift-wrapping, food delivery and soup kitchen placements, yet positions in these programs are generally limited.

However, more mundane roles desperately needed manpower.

Ms Roberts said volunteers tended to neglect volunteer roles in door-knocking and cold calling, saying helpers prefered a less intensive style of commitment.

“When people come in, we tell them we need people doing door-to-door or in shopping centres and they agree, but they rarely turn up.”

“That’s where we need volunteers – it’s just unfortunate because in those kinds of jobs, families connecting with other families, is when we get the best response.”

To donate, visit https://www.thesmithfamily.com.au/donate or http://www.salvationarmy.org.au/donate to donate to their Christmas Giving Appeals. Alternatively, lend a hand in the jobs they need by visiting http://www.volunteeringgc.org.au/.

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