Americans give to charity like never before amid pandemic

By Jonnelle Marte

(Reuters) – Hundreds of cars line up before dawn on weekly distribution days for the Forgotten Harvest’s partner food pantries in the metro Detroit area, where visits are up by 50% this year.

The need has grown as the coronavirus pandemic has shut down offices and other businesses. So has the response.

Monetary donations to the food bank are on pace to top last year’s contributions, helping to fund a larger storage space and new mobile distribution sites required to distribute food safely during the crisis.

“The only good thing about this pandemic is that it’s made people care a little bit more about their neighbors,” said Christopher Ivey, director of marketing for Forgotten Harvest, one of the largest food banks in Michigan.

The economic crisis set off by the pandemic has widened the chasm between the “haves” and the “have-nots” in the United States in new ways. People who can work from home, often in higher-income jobs, are comfortable.

But over 20 million Americans rely on unemployment benefits, and hunger and poverty are rising.

The expanded rift has been accompanied by an outpouring of donations to local food banks, crowdfunding campaigns and other aid to financially devastated Americans.

Amazon shareholder Mackenzie Scott’s $4 billion in charitable contributions, announced earlier this month, may be the biggest. But plenty of Americans are also chipping in, donating $10 or $20, some for the first time ever.

Many non-profits have suffered this year as the pandemic shuttered galas and fundraisers. But donations to some small and mid-sized charitable organizations were up 7.6% in the first nine months of 2020 over 2019, according to a recent analysis by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, which tracks nearly 2,500 groups. The number of donors is up by 11.7%.

The trend seems to have continued in December, typically the most active time for charitable giving in the United States, early data show. Charities received $2.47 billion in donations on Dec. 1, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving known as GivingTuesday, up 25% from 2019.

“People are giving like we’ve never seen before,” said Woodrow Rosenbaum, chief data officer for GivingTuesday.

Much of that is coming in small dollar amounts, suggesting that people across the income spectrum are stepping up their contributions, Rosenbaum said.

About 70% of the donations made to campaigns on GoFundMe were under $50 this year, up from 40% in 2019, according to a spokesperson for the fundraising website.

“What we have now is much more collective action,” said Rosenbaum.

America’s Food Fund, started this year, raised over $44 million on GoFundMe, the largest campaign ever on the fundraising website. Long-time programs like the United States Post Office’s Operation Santa, which matches donors with needy families who send letters to a special North Pole address, report unprecedented support.

Jonathan Cummings, executive director for Revive South Jersey, a ministry started in 2012 to tutor English, mentor and provide housing help in local communities, says a “groundswell” of volunteers signed up to deliver food every two weeks after the organization realized that many of the families it supports were struggling to afford groceries.

Giving Tuesday donations tracked by Share Omaha, a Nebraska organization that supports local nonprofits, nearly doubled this year from 2019, to over $3 million, with a third coming from first-time donors. When the group asked for volunteers earlier in the year for packing meals for the homeless and other tasks, it got 700 applications, up from the 200 monthly average.

“Even if people are out of work or furloughed, they want to give back to the community,” said Marjorie Maas, executive director for the organization.

Janette McCabe was one of the hundreds of people waiting in cars before sunrise on the Monday before Christmas in a parking lot in Warren, Michigan, for a Forgotten Harvest food bank distribution.

McCabe and her husband lost their jobs recently and have been relying on food stamps. She has been coming to the food bank distribution for about a month and a half.

“The volunteers are fantastic,” McCabe said. “I don’t know what we would do if we didn’t have them.”

(Reporting by Jonnelle Marte; Additional reporting by Emily Elconin; Editing by Heather Timmons and Dan Grebler)

U.S. graduates turn regalia into PPE: Wear the cap, donate the gown

By Barbara Goldberg

(Reuters) – In this year’s mostly virtual commencement ceremonies, thousands of American graduates are adorning their mortarboards with the slogan “Gowns 4 Good” after donating their gowns to healthcare workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic to use as personal protective equipment.

Gowns 4 Good is the name of a charity started three weeks ago by Nathaniel Moore, a front-line physician assistant in Burlington, Vermont, who is asking graduates to donate their gowns to more than 75,000 front-line responders and others who have registered for the regalia on

Across the country, school graduations have been canceled to abide by social distancing rules, including Moore’s own ceremony at the University of Vermont, where he was earning an MBA with a focus on sustainability.

“The image of my colleagues on the front line and at other medical facilities that lack the appropriate PPE and wearing trash bags with no sleeves and no protection under the waist, that just struck me,” Moore, 30, told Reuters.

After researching Centers For Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for PPE in times of shortage, he launched the non-profit with the slogan, “Wear the Cap, Donate the Gown.”

Gowns worn backwards, with the zippered opening in the rear and the high collar in the front, fit the CDC requirements for covering “critical zones,” including forearms, chests, stomach and waistline, Moore said.

“We are getting cries for help – from New York City emergency departments that have hundreds of patients coming in a day and they have no adequate gown protection to assisted living facilities that are sending us pictures of their staff without gowns,” he said.

In keeping with the tradition of graduates decorating their caps to express their individuality, those who donate their gowns are using the Gowns 4 Good logo to draw attention to the cause.

On Wednesday, listed more than 75,000 gowns requested by medical facilities, more than 4,100 gowns donated by individuals and more than 1,500 gowns donated by institutional partners, including a regalia manufacturer.

Nearly 4 million people are expected to graduate from U.S. colleges in the 2019-2020 academic year, according to

With much of the nation locked down, hundreds of schools have announced they will either cancel, postpone or stage virtual ceremonies.

Before the crisis hit the United States, Graduation Source in Greenwich, Connecticut, one of several cap and gown suppliers nationwide, received about 2 million orders for regalia for this spring’s graduation season, a spokesman said.

But the cancellations of graduation ceremonies have been changing that number daily, he said, although he declined to release an updated number.

Even gowns that students wear for a virtual graduation in the living room or back yard can be donated as PPE. But recipients are advised not to use the regalia before the three days that researchers say the virus can remain active on clothing, Moore said.

Among the most poignant donations were gowns sent by parents who included notes saying their sons and daughters died years ago, before they had a chance to graduate, and their regalia was just too precious to give away – until now.

“It’s the gown that has been sitting in their closet collecting dust but is too sentimental to do anything with,” Moore said.

“Now this is an honorable donation. So they can feel good about where it’s going.”

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Dan Grebler)

New York attorney general looking at Eric Trump charity’s payouts

FILE PHOTO - Eric Trump during the grand opening of the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on February 28, 2017. REUTERS/Nick Didlick/File Photo

By Ian Simpson

(Reuters) – New York’s attorney general is looking into a report that the Eric Trump Foundation funneled more than $1 million from charity golf tournaments into President Donald Trump’s business, a spokesman for the attorney general said on Friday.

Forbes magazine reported this week that the charity run by Eric Trump, the president’s second-oldest son, paid the Trump Organization to use its properties for charity events in recent years even though Eric Trump had told donors that the golf course and other assets were being used for free, so that just about all the money donated would help sick children.

Forbes reported that based on filings from the Eric Trump Foundation and other charities, more than $1.2 million “has no documented recipients past the Trump Organization.”

Eric Soufer, a spokesman for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, said in an email that his office was looking into issues raised by the Forbes story.

Soufer did not immediately respond to a later request for details about the examination.

The Democratic attorney general’s office already is investigating allegations of self-dealing at the Donald J. Trump Foundation, the Republican president’s charity.

Trump, a New York real estate developer, said in December that he would dissolve the Donald J. Trump Foundation, but Schneiderman’s office has said it could not be wound down while the investigation was ongoing.

Forbes also reported that although donors to the Eric Trump Foundation were told all its money was going to help St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, fight pediatric cancer, more than $500,000 was re-donated to other charities.

Many of those charities “were connected to Trump family members or interests, including at least four groups that subsequently paid to hold golf tournaments at Trump courses,” Forbes said.

Amanda Miller, who works for the Trump Organization and who identified herself in an emailed response to a Reuters query as a “spokesperson for Eric Trump,” said the Eric Trump Foundation would cooperate fully with Schneiderman’s office.

Eric Trump is executive vice president of development and acquisition for the Trump Organization.

“During the past decade, the Eric Trump Foundation has raised over $16.3 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, including more than $3.6 million to St. Jude and other worthwhile causes just in 2016 alone,” Miller said in the email.

Eric Trump said in a tweet on Thursday that he had raised the money for St. Jude with an expense ratio of less than 12.3 percent. “Let’s not politicize pediatric cancer,” he said.

On his foundation’s website, Eric Trump said he had ceased direct fundraising efforts at the end of 2016 “in order to avoid the appearance or assertion of any impropriety and/or a conflict of interest.”

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Leslie Adler)

In time of crisis, Venezuelans help the hungry

Mariano Marquez (L), a volunteer of Make The Difference (Haz La Diferencia) charity initiative, gives a cup of soup and an arepa to a homeless woman in a street of Caracas, Venezuela March12, 2017. Picture taken March 12, 2017. REUTERS/Marco Bello

By Andreina Aponte

CARACAS (Reuters) – Their clothes torn and dirty, nine barefoot children yell and applaud as a convoy of cars approaches on a busy street in Venezuela’s capital.

Volunteers emerge handing out soup and clothes to the delight and excitement of the children who have come from a town a couple of hours outside Caracas.

“We started this because we see people every day hunting for food in the trash, not only the homeless but people on their way to work,” said Diego Prada, a 28-year-old entrepreneur who began a charity in December in response to Venezuela’s dire economic crisis.

His ‘Make The Difference’ initiative is one of a plethora of solidarity projects springing up around Venezuela, in the fourth year of a crushing recession that has forced many to skip meals and jostle for scarce subsidized food.

Concerned individuals, businesses, church groups and high-end restaurants have started projects across the country to serve food, donate clothing and help with supplies for struggling hospitals.

Long accustomed to living in one of Latin America’s wealthiest nations, many Venezuelans have been shocked by seeing more and more people trying to salvage food from the trash.

Diego Prada (L), a volunteer of the Make The Difference (Haz La Diferencia) charity initiative, gives a cup of soup and an arepa to a man in a street of Caracas, Venezuela March12, 2017. Picture taken March 12, 2017. REUTERS/Marco Bello

Diego Prada (L), a volunteer of the Make The Difference (Haz La Diferencia) charity initiative, gives a cup of soup and an arepa to a man in a street of Caracas, Venezuela March12, 2017. Picture taken March 12, 2017. REUTERS/Marco Bello

According to a recent study by three Venezuelan universities, 93 percent of the OPEC nation’s residents do not have enough money to buy sufficient food and 74 percent have lost around 18 pounds (8 kg) in the last year alone.

Critics say 18 years of socialist rule, exacerbated by a fall in oil prices, are to blame for Venezuela’s economic collapse. But President Nicolas Maduro says he is the victim of an “economic war” waged by the country’s elite and the U.S. government.

“If the bourgeoisie hide the food, I myself will bring it to your house. National production should go to the people in order to defeat the imperialist war,” Maduro said at an event this month to promote the distribution of subsidized food.

In Caracas, six upscale restaurants and chefs have formed a charity – “Full Stomach, Happy Heart” – that provides food for a geriatric home and a children’s hospital.

They take turns to cook and serve meals there.

“We serve large portions so that the children can share the food with their parents,” said chef and blogger Elisa Bermudez, adding salt to a broth ready for the hospital.

At a nursing home, 55-year-old Maria Ramirez is grateful for the outside help she receives.

“Sometimes we worry that we’re down to our last bag of spaghetti but thankfully in our most critical moments, we always receive a donation.”

(Additional reporting by Maria Ramirez in Puerto Ordaz and Anggy Polanco in San Cristobal.; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Tom Brown)

Charities slam Calais ban that could halt food aid for migrants

An aid worker provides assistance near a group of migrants claiming to be minors who use blankets to protect themselves from the cold as they prepare to spend the night after the dismantlement of the "Jungle" camp in Calais, France, October 27, 2016. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

By Matthias Blamont and Sudip Kar-Gupta

PARIS (Reuters) – Charities expressed outrage on Friday as the mayor of French port Calais, which has symbolized Europe’s refugee crisis, signed a ban on gatherings that could stop aid groups distributing meals to migrants and refugees.

A decree published on Thursday said the Calais authority believed that handing out meals at the site of the former “jungle” migrant camp was one reason for a rise in ethnic tensions and conflict between rival groups of migrants.

The decree, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, said food distribution by charities had led to large numbers of people gathering at the site of the now-closed camp, with fights breaking out and risks posed to the safety of local residents.

It did not expressly ban food distribution, but said it was “necessary to ban all gatherings” at the site and banned people from entering it. The decree said gatherings tended to take place “after the distribution of meals to migrants”.

Migrants have been streaming into Calais for much of the last decade, hoping to cross the short stretch of sea to Britain by leaping onto trucks and trains, or even walking through the railway tunnel under the English Channel.

Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchart, a member of conservative party The Republicans who signed the decree, defended her decision on the grounds of public safety and the damage to the local Calais economy caused by the refugee problem.

In a statement, Bouchart said it was also up to the national government to deal with the problem, and that she had always sought to act with “humanity” towards the refugees.

But human rights groups criticized the move, with some saying they would still hand out food to migrants and refugees.

“You’re talking about young people and children. You just can’t deprive them of food,” said Gael Manzi, who works for local aid association Utopia 56.

Manzi said Utopia 56 would continue to distribute food, but at a new site elsewhere in Calais.

Last month, non-government associations said hundreds of migrant children had been returning to Calais, despite the dismantling of the “jungle” camp late last year.

The influx of migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa is a key issue in France’s upcoming presidential election, with many voters concerned about competition for scarce jobs, security, and the risk of further terror attacks.

Police forces are still deployed permanently in the area where the “jungle” camp stood.

(Reporting by Matthias Blamont and Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Andrew Callus and Catherine Evans)

Mother Teresa’s mission lives on in Kolkata, grows worldwide

Members of Mother Teresa's order, the Missionaries of Charity, stand under a photograph before the unveiling of an official canonization portrait at the John Paul II National Shrine in Washington

By Subrata Nagchoudhury and Sunil Kataria

KOLKATA, India (Reuters) – On the eve of her canonization as a Roman Catholic saint, and 19 years after her death, the order founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta is going strong – even without her charismatic leadership.

The Missionaries of Charity gained world renown, and Mother Teresa a Nobel peace prize, by caring for the dying, the homeless and orphans gathered from the teeming streets of the city in eastern India.

They also drew criticism for propagating what one skeptic has called a cult of suffering; for failing to treat people whose lives might have been saved with hospital care; and for trying to convert the destitute to Christianity.

While staying true to their cause, the Missionaries of Charity say they have responded to their detractors.

“There is no change in our way of treating the sick and dying – we follow the same rule that Mother had introduced,” said Sister Nicole, who runs the Nirmal Hriday home in the ancient district of Kalighat, the first to be set up by Mother Teresa in 1952.

The nuns no longer picked up people “randomly” off the streets, she said, and only took in the destitute at the request of police.

“Any good work will be challenged – but if the work is genuinely good it will survive such criticism and carry on to be God’s true work,” said Nicole.


Hundreds of thousands are expected to gather in Rome on Sunday for a canonization service led by Pope Francis, leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, in front of St Peter’s Basilica.

Kolkata, as the former capital of the British Raj is now called, is holding prayers, talks and cultural events. But no major ceremony is planned to mark the path to sainthood for the two miracles of healing attributed to Mother Teresa.

The low-key mood reflects an often-heated debate over religious intolerance in India, a predominantly Hindu country of 1.3 billion people.

Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said Indians felt “proud” about the canonization, the head of a Hindu grassroots movement that supports his government provoked controversy last year by accusing Mother Teresa of seeking to convert people to Christianity. Her order denies this.

Kolkata Archbishop Thomas D’Souza played down any suggestion that Mother Teresa was not loved and respected by people of other faiths in a city that is home to 170,000 Roman Catholics.

“Mother is certainly not a goddess to them,” he told Reuters. “But she is deeply venerated and people – cutting across caste, community and creed – are respectful to her work.”

The everyday work of the Missionaries of Charity goes on, meanwhile.


A nun belonging to the global Missionaries of Charity reacts as she interacts with children at the Nirmala Shishu Bhavan in Inda

A nun belonging to the global Missionaries of Charity reacts as she interacts with children at the Nirmala Shishu Bhavan, a children’s home founded by Mother Teresa, ahead of Mother Teresa’s canonization ceremony in Kolkata, India August 30, 2016. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri


On a recent day at the spartan Kalighat home, male inmates with shaven heads and wearing green uniforms lay on bunks. Women ate in a canteen while others were cared for by volunteers.

One inmate, a man of about 40 called Saregama, had just died.

“Saregama died with dignity and care,” said Sister Nicole. “We prayed for him.”

The number of homes that the Missionaries of Charity run has grown to nearly 750 in India and abroad, from the 600 that Mother Teresa left when she died in 1997.

At Mother House, her old headquarters down a narrow lane, the mood was one of silent prayer. Inside, a notice still hung on the wall saying: “Time to see Mother Teresa: 9 am to 12 noon/3 pm to 6 pm. Thursday closed.”

Mother House still attracts visitors to India like Pedro Afonso, a lawyer from Brazil who had come with a friend for evening mass. He gave thanks for the miracles that will bring sainthood to Mother Teresa and said that, in Kolkata, she “had chosen the right place for her work and charity”.

(Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Widow Sells Late Husband’s Prized Car for Mental Health Research

A woman who lost her husband to suicide brought on by mental illness has parted with her biggest link to her late husband to try and help others.

Susan Futterman cried as her late husband’s 1967 Lamborghini 400 GT 2+2 sat in their garage for one of the last times.  The car, one of only 250 ever made, was a passion of her husband’s until he was stricken with mental illness at age 58.   Frederic Paroutaud lost his battle with mental illness just two months later when he committed suicide at the couple’s home.

“We really didn’t know there was an issue until April 2012, until he had what appeared to be a psychotic break,” Futterman said. “Things deteriorated pretty rapidly, and at some point he was diagnosed as bipolar.”

The car was auctioned over the weekend for $522,500.

Futterman gave every dollar from the sale to La Cheim Behavioral Health Services, a non-profit group seeking to help boost mental health care in Alameda and Contra Costa counties in California.

“I think the staff is a very dedicated group of people really trying to serve an underserved community, and they’ve been operating on a shoestring,” Futterman said. “I’d like to contribute to something where I can see a difference being made.”

“I think it’s tremendously generous and redemptive. She’s turning a tragedy into something that provides healing for people,” Frances Raeside, La Cheim’s program director, told the Contra Costa Times. “She’s creating a legacy for a really creative and beautiful person. … It’s a great act of courage on Susan’s part, letting go of the car that’s sitting in her garage and was a constant reminder of her husband.”

Food Banks Struggling to Keep Up with Demand

Food banks across the country are facing an increase in families in need, forcing some charities to reduce the amount of food that can be given to each family.

Feeding America, America’s biggest food bank network, says that they will give away around 4 billion pounds of food this year, more than double the amount they provided to people in need a decade ago.

“We get lines of people every day, starting at 6:30 in the morning,” said Sheila Moore, who oversees food distribution at The Storehouse, Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest food pantry.

Economists say the increased demand is surprising because of the increase in employment figures but many of the people who found jobs are only working part-time or for low wages, and are unable to feed their families with the costs of housing.  Many others who have struggled to find jobs have stopped looking for work.

“I know what people go through,” Peggy Bragg, 56, of Des Moines said. “You have to choose between food and bills.”  Bragg has been out of work for months.

A Fort Smith, Arkansas food bank does monthly food giveaways at a local park and draws around 1,000 families.

“When people are willing to stand in 100 degree weather for hours, that tells you something,” said Ken Kupchick, the food bank’s marketing director.

Prince William Takes Civilian Job; Will Donate Entire Salary to Charity

He may be second in line to the British throne, but Prince William is not sitting back enjoying the trappings of being a part of the Royal Family.

The Prince has taken a civilian job as a pilot for an air ambulance and rescue service, the first time a member of the Royal family in direct line to the throne has taken a civilian job.  William had been a pilot for the Royal Air Force in search-and-rescue and said that the progression to the air ambulance is a “natural progression.”

“I feel doing a job like this really helps me to be grounded and that’s the core of what I’m trying to become,” Prince William told CTV. “I’m trying to be a good guy, to do what I can and trying to be a decent individual.”

The Prince also admitted that he’s not going to make a personal gain from the four days on, four days off schedule he will be working for East Anglian Air Ambulance.  His entire salary, estimated by British Press as 30,155 pounds a year (approximately $47,000 American dollars) will be donated to an unnamed charity.

The Prince said that he’s trying to enjoy work life and home life, especially after the birth of Princess Charlotte on May 2.

“At some point, there’s probably going to be a lot more pressure and responsibility from my other side of my life. At the moment, I’m juggling the two of them and a young family and I’m enjoying it and I enjoy the challenge,” he said.

“We’re looking forward to him being part of the team,” EAAA chief executive Patrick Peal told NBC. “It is a very close-knit crew with the pilot operating closely with the doctor and paramedic so we need a strong team in every operation we go on.”

NFL Players Give Away Bibles To Fans

Seven NFL players teamed up with Athletes for Charity to spread the truth of the Gospel during the Christmas season.

The Christian Post reports that Don Carey and Andre Fluellen of the Detroit Lions, Ryan Lindley of the Arizona Cardinals, Kawann Short of the Carolina Panthers, Kevin Pamphile and Alterraun Verner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Reggie Walker of the San Diego Chargers bought Bibles and gifted them to others for Christmas.

This is the third years of the Bible giving event.

The players focused on the purpose of the event when asked about their participation rather than themselves.

“I believe that nobody has a greater or lesser platform in the eyes of God. That man who works at a factory that witnesses to his coworker, or that woman who works at a salon who prays for her customers, is just as important as I am,” Fluellen told CP. “God has blessed me with a gift, just as God has blessed everyone with a gift. We are all responsible for using that gift to show God’s love to others.”

“God placed us here for a reason. Use the time you have on this platform to spread His Word,” Verner told CP. “Being saved isn’t supposed to be exclusive to just us. It’s our job to be disciples and spread the Word to others.”

The Cardinals’ Lindley summed up the definition of success of the event.

“As long as one soul is touched and changed by what we do this holiday season, I will view this as a success,” Lindley told the Christian Post.