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A VOLUNTEER wearing a donated unicorn mask works at a past garage sale fundraiser for the Christian Clearing House. The annual event, a major source of income for the charity, is one of several fundraisers canceled this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (File photo)

By BRENNA GRITEMAN

LIFE EDITOR

Back in January, volunteers began actively organizing and setting up Christian Clearing House’s annual weekend-long garage sale fundraiser.

Days before it was set to open in late March, Gov. Mike DeWine shut down all large social gatherings in the state, effectively pulling the plug on a beloved local event that brings in $50,000-$60,000 annually for the charity.

Within four to five days, volunteers had the sale completely torn down. But the effects of the cancellation will linger for months, and maybe years, to come.

“So many nonprofits are seeing an increase in demand for their services. The demand hasn’t changed, and in some cases, it’s going up dramatically,” said Brian Treece, program director, community and organizational development and evaluation, with the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation.

Mix this with a decrease in fundraising and overall cash donations, and it’s a recipe for disaster for many of the approximately 50 to 55 nonprofits the Community Foundation works with in a given year.

Treece said while many families are facing financial hardship and an uncertain future, even a small donation can make a big difference for the charities responding during this pandemic.

“It’s not a question of being able to make a huge gift,” he said. “People still need those organizations. They still need the services they offer.”

Tammy Stahl, director of Christian Clearing House, said the garage sale is the largest of many fundraisers held throughout the year for the Findlay charity that provides emergency payments of rent, utilities, car payments and the like.

“We just don’t see the ability to put them back on the calendar at this point,” she said of those fundraising events.

Stahl said to her surprise, the need for the agency’s services has been quiet during this stay-at-home period. She said landlords and utility companies in Ohio are not legally allowed to evict tenants or disconnect services at this time, and many potential clients have likely received their government stimulus check and help from unemployment. Stahl worries that once those safeguards are no longer in place, Christian Clearing House will see a rush in bills its clients need help paying.

She said the agency has kept its office open inside The Family Center, but has shifted to appointments only. The agency is also operating without the help of its usual volunteer pool, with Stahl noting, “We’re really, really concerned because we don’t feel that it’s safe for our volunteers to come in at this time.”

Donations to Christian Clearing House can be made at www.hcchfindlay.org

Hancock Literacy had to cancel its annual community spelling bee, a signature fundraiser that typically brings in about $10,000.

“Probably the most disappointing thing was, we were on a roll,” executive director Shannon Andersen said of the spelling bee, in what would have been its 31st year.

Spelling bee organizers had been striving for 20 teams in the year 2020 for a spell-off scheduled for May 20. She said the event usually attracts about 14 teams, and 17 had signed up by the time this year’s bee was canceled. Andersen noted Hancock Literacy emailed each team registered and asked them to consider submitting their registration fee as a donation, rather than seeking a refund.

Andersen explained Hancock Literacy coordinates and supports local initiatives aimed at promoting lifelong literacy. Its most recognized service is overseeing and providing funding for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which mails an age-appropriate book to children’s homes once a month, from birth to age 5. There are over 2,300 kids enrolled in the Hancock County program, but Andersen said it is currently serving just half of the eligible children in the county. She said a $25 sponsorship serves one child for one year.

Hancock Literacy also operates a community books initiative that provides books to any child whose family is being served by Hope House, City Mission or Chopin Hall. During the pandemic, the program has been expanded to provide books to children being served through the YMCA’s Feed-A-Child program.

Monetary donations can be made at hancockliteracy.org, where donors can specify which program they would like their dollars to support. Used books can be donated and are distributed to local doctor’s office waiting rooms.

Paula Krugh, executive director of the Humane Society & SPCA of Hancock County, said the shelter’s annual spring golf outing — currently rescheduled for Sept. 25 — typically brings in over $30,000. This event, along with end-of-year giving, accounts for the agency’s largest generation of funds.

A public spay/neuter clinic, also on hold — first due to a ban on nonessential medical procedures and now due to a lack of surgical gloves and other personal protective equipment — is another huge revenue stream that’s dried up. Fortunately, Krugh said, the shelter does have enough supplies on hand to spay/neuter dogs and cats that are being prepared for adoption.

There is one silver lining to the pandemic and its stay-at-home orders, Krugh said: “The good news is, we’ve had great adoption rates during this.”

She said most adoptions have been of dogs and cats, though there have also been some rabbits and guinea pigs sent to their forever homes. All adoptions were facilitated by appointment, as the shelter has otherwise been closed to the public and volunteers.

Krugh noted that Findlay is blessed to have many helpers.

“For the size of Findlay, Ohio, there are so many nonprofits. We recognize that it’s not just us. It’s all nonprofits” hurting due to a drop in fundraising, she said.

Krugh is grateful that people are still donating wish list items such as leashes and collars, blankets, pet food and office supplies. And she recognizes that “there’s a lot of people who can’t afford to give as they have in the past.”

Monetary donations can be made at www.hancockhumanesociety.com

Gliding Stars of Findlay, an adaptive ice skating program for kids with disabilities, was forced the close the curtain on its annual ice show set for late March.

Executive Director Cindy Bregel said ticket and raffle sales for the show account for the agency’s largest annual fundraiser and generate $7,500 to $10,000. Another $8,000 had already been put into T-shirts, medals and awards.

“Financially, definitely by not having the show, that’s a pretty big hit on our annual income,” Bregel said.

But, because the sets are already designed, the T-shirts ordered and the show coordinated, Gliding Stars’ 50 skaters — and 78 volunteers — will present this year’s show next spring. Any tickets already sold will be honored at the 2021 performance.

Bregel said early on, as coronavirus concerns began to crop up in America, Gliding Stars had concerns regarding the population it serves. She said while the skaters themselves were disappointed to cancel the show, the decision was an easy one.

“We’ll just pick up where we left off” next year, she said. “As a program going forward, we’ve got to think about the health and safety of our Stars.”

Bregel added tickets for the basket raffles will be sold through May 22, with the winners to be announced via Facebook Live on June 4. Each of the eight themed baskets is worth over $500 and can be viewed on the Gliding Stars Facebook page. Contact Bregel through Facebook, or at 419-306-5327 or cindy.bregel@gmail.com, to purchase tickets.

brennagriteman@thecourier.com

Twitter: @BrennaGriteman

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