We've never seen anything quite like the current upsurge in demand for the "helping hand up" provided by our various services and opportunities here at Central Dallas Ministries.
Across the board, organization-wide all of our metrics are not only up, they are soaring upward.
Take our overcrowded Resource Center on Haskell Avenue, the home of our "food pantry."
Several years ago we renamed the center, since it provides so much more than simply food products to low-income individuals and families. It truly is a center for the distribution of all sorts of resources and referrals.
Comparing the first five months of 2006 with the same period last year, demand in this center is up 37%.
The month of May 2006 turned out to be our busiest month in our history. We served 4,036 individuals. Our numbers compared to May 2005 were up 62%!
A number of factors may explain the growth:
. . . reduction in services offered in other locations around the city
. . . growth in the number of families whose income is not allowing them to keep up with their monthly expenses
. . . growing awareness in the community of the work of CDM
. . . expansion of the number of individuals and families falling below the poverty line.
I expect the list of reasons is long.
The growth is not a good thing.
From a management perspective it creates major problems for us. There is no way to plan for or to anticipate this kind of growth.
As a result, we are in a tough place from a financial standpoint today.
Summers are always tight for us.
But with this kind of growth, we are facing huge challenges. More and more of our funding is coming by way of grants and contracts. These funds are restricted and can be used only for designated programs.
Historically, most of our food costs have been covered by unrestricted donations to our general fund.
But this year individual donations are down.
I see no end in sight for the growing demand.
Anyone out there have a rich uncle?
Seriously, we need help in spreading the word about the rising tide of need among working, low-income persons who live in Dallas, Texas. And we need to find serious, dedicated new donors.
Last week representatives from Kraft Foods came by to deliver a check and to tour the Resource Center. They were amazed at the crowds and the process.
As we walked through the center, one gentleman commented, "This growth is great! You are doing a wonderful job."
I had to correct him.
"Thanks for the encouragement and for your support," I told him. "But, you know the growth is not a good thing. Increasing numbers of hungry and poor people can never be good."
Of course, he agreed.
It is easy to lose you way in terms of facing and responding to poverty. Sometimes an organization's charitable mission can blind it to the real bottom line: things should be different in a city and a nation like this.
Any rich uncles out there?