Giving Tuesday was created in 2012 as a simple idea: a day to encourage people to do good.
An offshoot of the original intent is that it has become a day for nonprofit organizations to remind people of their year-round needs, and encourage donations.
Just how much do local organizations depend on days such as Giving Tuesday? Quite a bit, according to Maj. Heather Holman of The Salvation Army’s Grand Haven corps.
“Having a boost like Giving Tuesday and throughout the end of the year, both of those enable us to help more people,” said Jennifer Smelter, a board member at Homeless Prevention Partners, which includes the annual Soup for All fundraiser.
We asked several local nonprofits about their needs, and how their missions are dependent upon community support.
The People Center
Located in Spring Lake, The People Center provides food, clothing and transitional housing for those in need. Toward the end of the year, the nonprofit receives a significant number of donations, including those that come in on Giving Tuesday, according to Director Karen Reenders.
“We do get a lot of financial donations on Giving Tuesday on our PayPal account, so people do think about us,” Reenders said. “The basic necessities are needed for everybody. We are a place where they know their money is going to go right back into the community.”
Reenders said The People Center is the only nonprofit in the area where people can go to get clothing.
Currently, the center is seeking donations for non-perishable foods, toiletries and personal hygiene products, and laundry detergent.
The Salvation Army
For this year’s Giving Tuesday, all donations made to The Salvation Army will be matched up to $25,000 by sponsors Commercial Alliance and Community Choice Credit Union, Holman said.
“The dollars for Giving Tuesday are very important to us,” she said. “Obviously, it helps to stretch the money further so we can help assist more local families for Christmas and throughout the year.”
Outside of donating financially, there are other ways people can help out. Holman said people can donate toys for Toys-4-Tots and give gift cards for teenage clients.
People can also buy things for a single family by picking up one of The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree tags. Names for the family remain anonymous to the shopper, Holman said.
Finally, The Salvation Army is always accepting food donations. She said they are running low on meat and could use some for their freezer. Non-perishable foods like canned and box foods are welcomed.
“Pop-top cans are good, since in the summer time some people don’t live inside or carry a can opener,” Holman explained.
Soup for All
The holidays tend to bring out the giver in all of us, and local nonprofits can’t stress enough the importance of community donations – especially on a growing global movement like Giving Tuesday. That includes Homeless Prevention Partners, which was once Soup For All, in their surge to shed the spotlight on partnering local agencies that help homeless students and families, provide utility assistance for emergency situations, and fill food pantries.
During a time when inflation and homelessness continues to escalate and impact Lakeshore communities, Homeless Prevention Partners board members say it’s imperative to pay it forward.
“Coming into the winter months, when needs get more difficult, costs go up with heating, inflation – any giving just helps us help more people,” board member Jennifer Smelker said. “The needs are great and have increased since the pandemic – that goes with all nonprofits in seeing an increase of families that struggle.”
The local nonprofit acts as a vital support system and stretches a lending hand to other area organizations, including Grand Haven Area Public Schools. Smelker estimated that there’s well over 200 students who are considered homeless, and why she said giving is a year-round community necessity.
“We average that most people who are on the brink of homelessness are about $250 short on a car bill or utility,” Smelker said. “If we can help in just that one instance, usually that’s all it is. It’s amazing what can happen if we prevent things from snowballing for people. It’s really important to us to come along and help people stay in their homes.”
Love in Action
Between Thanksgiving and the New Year, Love in Action receives more than half of its annual donations. That’s according to its executive director, Josh Bytwerk, and why he says on Giving Tuesday it’s absolutely critical to continue that movement.
“It’s always in the months of November and December that stressors happen for people,” he said. “Financial needs happen, lots of days off for work, sickness – so much goes into this time of year. It’s when our budget gets met and we’re so thankful for our donors.”
The local nonprofit and ministry works with a network of church partners, volunteers and partner organizations to help neighbors in need. Bytwerk said financial donations are paramount, but he’s seen food insecurities become more of an issue, especially during the holidays.
“We’ve been up 15 to 40 percent as far as food needs, food security and homelessness,” he said. “People are facing that challenge of not only paying $4 for gas, but I just paid $5 for eggs on Sunday morning. Groceries remain far more than what they were a year ago, and anything that helps us with those needs is enormous.”
Bytwerk said protein, canned soup, fruits and vegetables, along with nonperishable items like cereal, are the most needed items right now.
The Momentum Center
This year, The Momentum Center for Social Engagement is dependent on donations from generous community members more than ever, says its founder.
The nonprofit, which has locations in Grand Haven and Holland, seeks to create community conversations around social justice issues, as well as provide a safe space for those with mental or physical disabilities. The organization has a record number of 200 members as of this year.
“The cost of the member activities has gone up,” said Barbara Van Horssen, founder of the nonprofit, which provides free activities for members like public outings and prize-winning bingo games. “At the same time, we have great empathy that people are feeling those pinches in their personal lives.”
Almost as much as they depend on financial contributions, Van Horssen said the organization has also seen a decline in volunteers over the years.
“We’ve had to add staff to make up for the loss of volunteer hours,” she said.
Donations can be made in-person at either Momentum Center office, via mail or over the phone.
Van Horssen reminds the community of the center’s key purpose. “We want the community to know we’re a resource for navigating that holiday stress and tension, and finding a place of welcome and unpacking and respite,” she said.
United Way of Ottawa County
When you give a dollar to the United Way, there’s about a $3.25 return on investment back into the community. That’s according to Liz DeLaLuz, vice president of community impact for the United Way of Ottawa and Allegan Counties.
The organization, which has been around nationally for about 100 years, seeks to support people in the areas of education, financial stability and health. That can look many ways, from a citizenship class to addressing substance abuse.
“We work with 47 different agencies and we fund 51 programs through those agencies,” DeLaLuz said. “When you give a gift to United Way, you’re not giving to one specific organization – you’re giving to a number of specific organizations. It takes more than one organization to wrap around a family and help them with whatever needs they may have.”
Like many other nonprofits, the local United Way is also in need of volunteers.
DeLaLuz stressed that while the United Way may be a globally recognized organization, the Ottawa County chapter is run by a local board of directors.