Talk to the staff members of charitable organizations these days and they will tell you they have never seen a year like 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the hardships it has wrought. Millions of Americans are out of work or newly living in poverty and many others are socially isolated, creating a greater-than-ever demand for services. Kenneth Hodder, the national commander of the Salvation Army, described the present moment as “a tsunami of human need” in a telephone interview.

And yet many charities have had their normal operations disrupted by the pandemic, creating a dramatic mismatch between that need and the ability to fill it. People who gave money in years past may not have the financial means to do so this year. Organizations that provide direct, in-person services, like food banks and homeless shelters, are just as reliant on volunteers despite public concerns about the coronavirus.

This is the time of year when people traditionally donate to toy drives, food banks and other favored charities or give their time as volunteers. And for many charities, the money raised in November and December is the major part of their budgets for the following year.

In many cases, the organizations are continuing to try to fill people’s needs. Toys for Tots drop-off bins can still be found at participating locations. Soup kitchens, food pantries and faith-based organizations will be serving Christmas dinners. Goodwill’s more than 3,300 stores across North America are, with rare exceptions, accepting donations and open for shopping.

Others have taken their work online. Soldier’s Angels, a nonprofit that works with members of the military and veterans, has been holding virtual baby showers for spouses of deployed service members as a part of its “Baby Brigade” program. 


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