The Triangle United Way is a huge funding source for 82 social services groups -- 28 of which are in Orange County.
Since 1995, when the group raised $15 million, they have consistently raised more and more funds. Last year, the total was a little over $26 million.
And since 76 percent of donations come from individuals, the turn of events since Sept. 11 could put many of the organizations which rely on United Way funds in a serious bind.
In fact, some nonprofits already are making cutbacks in anticipation.
One such aid agency seeing increased demand and fewer donations is the Inter-Faith Council in Chapel Hill on Rosemary Street.
During the last three months, the IFC has seen a 31 percent jump in people seeking assistance over the same period last year.
Requests for food are up 56 percent.
And it is not only the really down-and-out that need a little extra help.
Of the applicants at the IFC, 26 percent more have jobs and 23 percent more are first-timers compared to last year.
With the cost of living so high in the Chapel Hill area, many people living off anything less than $12 an hour could easily find themselves in economic limbo.
How many people have to ask, "should I pay rent, or buy groceries?"
And that's where services like the IFC become a matter of eating or keeping a roof over one's head.
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In fact, an annual fund-raising event for the IFC just concluded: Restaurants Sharing V (5) and V (5) Percent Day.
Participating restaurants donate 10 percent of their total sales from Nov. 13 to the IFC shelter. Last year the event raised $22,023 in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.
Though the final tally is not slated to be announced until Dec. 31, this year's receipts will most likely be lower than last year. After all, only 75 eateries participated this time around -- compared to 105 last year.
A lot of people are going through harder times this year, especially considering how high the economy has been riding in years past.
Social services organizations around the Triangle provide services where governments, both federal and local, fail to meet the need.
They are a crucial backbone of any town or city -- and their contributions usually go unnoticed for much of the year. During the holidays, they ask for a little help from the community.
If you're able, give what you can. It can be a little donation or a few cans of food. These days, local nonprofits will gladly take anything.
And some of your neighbors could use a little extra help.
Columnist Jonathan Chaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.