This sounds a little weird, but now that Christmas is here I need to convince you give less to St. Anne's Center Homeless shelter, but give more.
Specifically, give less stuff, give more money.
December is the center's big month for donations and as far as stuff goes, you've been wonderful. When I visited Wednesday, the place was packed with coats, hats, gloves, toys, food and who knows what else.
It is hard to convey how generous you all have been: Director Jennie Canter's office is piled with bags and boxes. The offices of her workers are overflowing with bags and boxes. A donated semitrailer parked out back is chock-a-block. Cases of food are stacked in the kitchen.
Sara Jensen, a case worker, had to move a huge pile of new children's coats to get at her own desk which sat in a sea of bagged Christmas packages for homeless families.
Jennie told me to thank you very sincerely.
Jenny also wanted me to tell you that, as generous as you have been, it is not stuff she needs right now.
She is desperately short of money. Last year so much money was donated in December that she was able to operate through June without worrying too much about the bills. This year, with the economy supposedly rebounding, "We haven't even gotten a third of the donations we got last year."
Meanwhile, donations of stuff have tripled. Jennie is embarrassed to be pleading poverty amid bounty, but that's how things balanced out.
Why does she need money? It costs $55,000 a month to run St. Anne's Center.
As we talked, a big box of mittens sat on her meeting table because there's no room for it anywhere else. Mittens won't pay her water bill, which runs around $1,000 a month, nor her electric bill, which is another $1,500, nor her elevator, telephone and garbage bills which, together, are another $1,200. Her 21-person staff costs $30,000 a month in wages and benefits.
Her building is only 17 years old but was not built for the pounding it has taken and it's falling apart. Last month a 100-gallon water heater fell through the floor.
A fund raising campaign is on for a new shelter, but that doesn't help run the present one. Jennie depends on local churches, grants from foundations and the government and donations.
No donated clothing or food, I hasten to add, goes to waste. The problem is finding people who need it fast enough.
Anyone who comes in for lunch, or at night, gets what they need. Last week she gave Ogden schools vouchers for 250 children to get hats, gloves and coats. She holds a public distribution from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. every Wednesday.
You don't need to be homeless. If you or your kids need a good coat, she's got heaps.
"The other day I had a 65-year-old woman here who was five-feet nothing, and she was taking some clothes out and said 'I am so embarrassed.' I said 'You don't need to be' and she said, 'I'm not homeless,' but she said there are 13 of them living in her home because her daughter's family had to move in with them.
"So I said 'Back your car up,' and she did and we loaded in a case of every food item we have."
Then Jennie went back inside to ponder her own poverty.
"I hate begging for money, but if I had a dollar for every coat I've been given this winter I could pay my power bill for a couple of months."