Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
January 18, 2010
CSS Sign of Hope tops $2.4M goal
But recession hit businesses hard, prompting plans to search out additional supporters for 2010
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Catholic Social Services is breathing a sigh of relief as its Sign of Hope campaign peaked just over its $2.4 million goal, raising $2,454,512.
The Sign of Hope campaign began in 1984 with a target of $400,000. It raised $418,000 and has risen to higher levels every year since then.
But the 2009 campaign was the toughest so far, mainly because of the economic recession, noted Marc Barylo, the agency's chief development and community relations' officer.
"It was one of our most challenging years," he said. "We are so grateful to have, again, in our 26th year, reached our campaign goal - but it wasn't easy."
Bill Shields, chair of the 2009 campaign, said the business sector was hit hard by the recession and the campaign felt it.
"We heard from local business owners who clearly stated that they needed to decrease their annual gift solely because of the impact of the (economic) recession," Shields explained. "We are grateful for their support. They still found a way to give."
Catholic Social Services provides professional services to people of all faiths and cultures through more than 100 community-based programs, including services to abused children, to persons with physical and mental disabilities, to individuals addicted to alcohol and/or drugs. More than 60,000 people received help from the agency in 2009.
Some of the funds raised through the Sign of Hope campaign will go to support La Salle, a second stage shelter for women with children fleeing domestic violence.
Catholic Social Services took over operation of the shelter about a year ago and is now planning to expand it.
La Salle receives no government funding and relies on the financial support of the community for up to 90 per cent of its annual operating budget of $360,000. It could receive up to $150,000 from the Sign of Hope campaign.
Several other programs will benefit greatly from the campaign funds, including Safe House and Safe Passages, a program for sexually exploited street youth, and the Kairos House for people with HIV/AIDS.
"We do not take our donors for granted and we are grateful for their support, especially in these hard economic times," said Christopher Leung, CEO of Catholic Charities/Catholic Social Services.
"It speaks to their confidence in the work we do. Sign of Hope dollars are crucial dollars for us. Community support has been vital to our ability to fulfill our mission."
Even though Sign of Hope exceeded its goal by almost $55,000, Barylo called it a difficult campaign, especially because of the laments from the business sector.
CORPORATE DONATIONS DROPPED
While public donations went up a bit and parish collections remained at last year's level, corporate and business donations dropped, giving him a scare.
One particular business donor who is in "survival mode" reduced his annual commitment by $40,000. Another business donor who was contributing $20,000 plus couldn't afford to give anything this year.
"He didn't have the money and he phoned to apologize," Barylo said. "It's very humbling and I felt very badly for him but his priority is to keep his staff employed and to put food on the table. The business sector, especially those in the oil industry, was hit harder (by the recession) than I really thought."
Signs are the economy will improve somewhat this year but Catholic Social Services will not be caught unprepared.
"I think we are going to make pro-active steps to broaden our reach in the community," Barylo said. "(The idea is) to bring new supporters from the public at large and target other businesses and corporations who aren't supporting us right now."
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