Charities Feel the Economic Pinch at Christmas Time

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Many charities are suffering from the economic downturn this Christmas season.

People typically line up to donate food, clothes and toys, but this year is different.  

"We just want to reach out and help in the community and get established here," said volunteer Fran Denniger.

But with Christmas just around the corner, Americans aren't giving like they were before.

The economic downturn has many people across the country cutting back on charitable giving.

Police officers in Wilmington, North Carolina, are trying to collect more than 1,200 toys for needy children in the community. But they are struggling to meet their goals.

"We know it's really rough," said Cpl Robert Ernest of the Leland Police Officers Association. "But if you could find a way, even if it's one toy. That's great, and maybe it'll catch on to other folks, and we can make this a bright Christmas for these kids, because they really need it, especially times we're living in now."

At the local Salvation Army's Angel Tree ministry, volunteers are hoping against hope that they can get all their bags filled with clothes for the needy before Christmas Day.

"Christmas is for kids, and we'd like each of them to wake up on Christmas morning and have new toys," said the Salvation Army's Major Butch Mallard. "But all their friends are having clothes, but we'd like them to have at least one new outfit."

In 2008, donations to charities were down by the largest in decades. And this year isn't looking much better as demand for charitable services is expected to be up by some 30 percent.

"The past year is the first time in 20 years that charitable giving has gone down," said Charitywatch.org's Daniel Borochoff.

Still, with so many Americans out of a job or feeling uneasy about the economy, charities are trying to work smarter with less to help those in need.

"We're there to help each other," Denniger said. "You never know when you're going to be in that spot and want someone to reach out and help you."

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