Giving Back: Area non-profits participate in Giving Tuesday

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Volunteers with Meals on Wheels prepare meals at the senior center in Sherman in 2017. Many area non-profits are asking for people to consider donating to their causes this GivingTuesday

During the season of holiday shopping, gift-giving and merriment, area non-profits are asking Texoma to take a moment and give back.

Area non-profits across the region participated in a collective funding raising Tuesday as a part of Giving Tuesday. Many organizations focused their efforts on fundraising for projects that will support the community through charitable services aimed at those in need. 

While Tuesday represents the eighth year for the charitable movement, area non-profits said 2020 is like no other year due to the unprecedented need created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It is sad, but almost always it takes something of tremendous magnitude and severity, to the level of a hurricane or more, than then the community comes together, and this situation is no exception," said Greg Pittman, executive director of Meals on Wheels of Texoma.

Giving Tuesday started in 2012 as a social media hashtag asking people to remember to donated to community organizations during the holiday season. In many ways, it is seen as a counterpoint to the consumerism of holiday shopping, specifically Black Friday.

In 2019, an estimated $1.97 was raised during Giving Tuesday, according to the Giving Tuesday Data Collaborative.

"I think Giving Tuesday, following the craziness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, gives us an opportunity as a community to reflect on what the season is really about," said Katie Eubank, director of resource development for the United Way of Grayson County. "I think this year, more than ever the need is greater for people to support local non-profits because there is a greater need for those services."

The United Way supports 17 other non-profits in the area by collecting donations and splitting them between the groups.

"If you can't make a donation to 17 donations, why not give to one organization that will then be split between those organizations," Eubank said.

Eubank said many organizations have had difficulties raising funds through traditional avenues due to financial hardships by some donors and the cancellation of many annual fundraiser events.

The United Way is no exception.

Courtney and Aaron Schmitz text a donation to the United Way of Grayson County at the organization's Giving Tuesday fundraiser in 2017. The annual counterpoint to Black Friday and Cyber Monday asks people to give back to the non-profits and charitable organizations in their communities.

"It is a challenge for us as much as it is for our community partners," Eubank said. "Traditionally speaking, we make most of our funding through workplace campaigns where we go to various businesses and speak to their employees."

However, many employers were unable to hold these workplace fundraisers due to the pandemic.

For this year's Giving Tuesday, the United Way is issuing a Brown Bag Channel. Instead of eating out for lunch Tuesday, organizers are asking donors to instead pack their lunch and give what they would have spent to charity.

Meals on Wheels of Texoma is not directly participating in Giving Tuesday as organizers only recently learned about the initiative. However, the organization plans to participate next year, Pittman said.

While Means on Wheels has maintained much of its funding, thanks to generous donors and $250,000 provided through the CARES Act,  Pittman said the group has drastically increased its service in the wake of COVID-19.

While the organization traditionally offers five meals a week to its elderly clients, the organization has since increased the number of meals it offers in hopes of keeping the elderly home and safe.

"Everything we were told at the time was that individuals with one of more conditions of suppressed immuno-defense systems, including the elderly, would face the highest rate of infection and mortality," Pittman said, noting this makes up the majority of his clients.

As the full scope of the pandemic set in, Pittman said the organization realized it did not provide enough food to keep their clients home and safe. Additional resources would be needed.

"We had a decision to make," he said. "As other non-profits were shutting services down, we didn't feel we could do that."

Instead, the organization increased its meal offering to seven traditional meals and one breakfast each week. The organization also delivered 20 shelf-stable meals to its clients in hopes of helping them get through the pandemic.

Another organization that has seen an increase in demand in 2020 is Women Rock, which provides services and assistance to those who do or have had breast cancer.

Becca Boss of Women Rock works on a care package the organization generally gives to women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018.  Women Rock, among other non-profits is asking  people to consider a charitable donation this season.

"We offer services from screening, to actual diagnosis, to treatment to actual survivorship,"  Women Rock CEO LuAnn Daniel said.

The pandemic's impact on local hospitals and healthcare had a side effect of causing many providers to suspend mammograms and other screening procedures early on. Since then, the organization has faced a backlog as providers tried to catch up.

In the months that followed, the group started receiving requests for help with groceries and funeral services, among other needs.  Daniel said others requested assistance as they lost insurance coverage.

"It definitely felt like we had more people reaching out to us," she said.

The pandemic also led the organization to cancel or change many of its traditional fundraisers. Women Rock was able to hold its annual Bras for a Cause fundraiser in 2020, however capacity was cut in half compared to normal crowds.

"It shut down our fundraising for several months and a lot of our missions are supported by our fundraisers," Daniel said.

The group has since turned to many smaller-scale fundraisers to make up this gap, but Daniel still anticipates a budget shortfall for 2020.

Despite this, Women Rock as not had to dip into its reserve funding yet.

"I still consider that we are going to be ok," she said. "We are blessed to have people that are very loyal in the community that we could reach out to if we reach that need."