Nonprofit struggle could hit your wallet, community

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – On the heels of long-standing Channels Food Rescue shutting down this week in Dauphin County, local nonprofits are calling attention to the difficult climate in which they’re trying to survive.

Jackie Pestka stopped working at Channels last year, but she says the news of its closing still hit her hard.

“I know the effect we had when we were there,” Pestka said, “and that was getting people working, and getting folks jobs, and giving them a chance to have another chance. It’s sad that that part’s not going to be there.”

“It’s sad when anything closes that was important to the future,” she added.

United Way of Pennsylvania says other nonprofits are worried about similar fates.

“You really have to spend a lot of time thinking about what the next steps will be if you don’t get your funding rather than focusing on what you want to be doing, which is serving people,” United Way of Pennsylvania President Kristen Rotz said.

Rotz added that the community is the first to feel the impact when a nonprofit closes.

For example, Pennsylvania Health Care Association says the median cost for a private room in a Pennsylvania nursing home is $107,493 per year. But United Way says nonprofits can provide services that keep seniors in their homes, like Meals on Wheels or support for chores around the house for a cost of $19,000 per year.

It’s also about the economy. The Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies says Pennsylvania’s nonprofit sector employs 727,200 people – more than 13 percent of the state’s workforce. If the nonprofit organization disappears, so do its jobs.

“We have all different sized organizations that provide these services, so the small ones tend to not have a lot of reserves and resources they can rely on,” Rotz said.

Another big part of the challenge for Pennsylvania nonprofits includes the state budget impasse. United Way says 30 percent of nonprofits that responded to its surveys reported they’ve had to cut services in some way. Sixty percent said they were forced to take out lines of credit. All of them say they’re worried, because it will still be 30 to 60 days after a budget agreement until the cash starts flowing again.

In the meantime, more than 60,000 nonprofits in Pennsylvania are vying for funds. United Way says private donations are back to their pre-recession levels, but resources are also more thinly-stretched.

“There is a lot of competition for donations,” Rotz said. “In the social media age, everyone is a fundraiser and everyone is a donor.”

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