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Shutdown hurts charities supported by federal workers

The Combined Federal Campaign, the annual drive that encourages federal employees to donate to hundreds of charities, hopes to restart its suspended fund-raising activities as soon as the federal government goes back to work, officials said Wednesday.

The Miami Valley drive raised more than $3 million from 6,100 donors last year and sent money to local, national and international charities, organizers said.

The charities span a spectrum of needs and causes, from providing housing to homeless women and children to aid to paralyzed veterans, and from protecting the environment to support of the arts and public broadcasting.

Employees may still donate online at, but the charities have not been able to make a pitch to employees during the shutdown, officials said.

“The concern is once you’ve stopped that, trying to get people to donate later is always a concern,” said Kerry Pedarza, executive director of the United Way of Clark, Champaign and Madison counties where CFC funds contributed $26,000.

An annual charity fair and campaign kickoff at the Wright State University Nutter Center and two other fund-raising events were canceled this month, according to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base spokesman Daryl Mayer. The Nutter Center gathering let charities promote causes and answer donor questions.

“The government shutdown has affected not just one sector of our community, but it’s actually affected all of our community,” said Carmen Gooden, executive director of The Linda Vista, Inc., a transitional housing center in Dayton for homeless women and their children.

“I’m thinking now about different ways to make people aware of who we are and what we do.”

James H. Smith, chief of staff of the nonprofit Mercy Medical Airlift, which includes Angel Flight of Ohio, said the lost opportunity to make a pitch to federal employees was “very troubling.” The charity pays a medical patient’s commercial air or bus fare, or volunteer pilots fly their own aircraft to transport patients to specialized medical treatment.

“It’s huge because at this time of year typically we are attending all the CFC fairs,” he said in a telephone interview from Virginia Beach, Va. “This year was already expected to be down from last year.”

He didn’t have an exact figure, but said the campaign donates a “significant amount” of the organization’s money. “It will have a huge impact on us if they don’t get this figured out soon and get the campaign rolling.”

CFC donations account for “a significant portion” of the Greene County Special Olympics, said coordinator Karolyn Braun.

“Obviously, if we don’t get the word out that we would like to get them to donate, that’s liable to have an impact, but how much we have no idea,” she said.

The fund-raising campaign targets all federal employees in the area, including the Dayton VA Medical Center, where workers contributed $167,000 last year and 21 percent of the workforce participated, according to hospital spokeswoman Kim Frisco.

Charity representatives said the campaign could be further hurt because thousands of federal employees at Wright-Patterson were forced to take up to 10 unpaid furlough days since the summer.

Gooden said some furloughed workers had rescinded continuing pledges to her organization because they were financially strapped.

”We actually had some people stop the donations because of the shutdown,” she said.

CFC donations have ranged from $5,000 to $18,000 a year to Linda Vista, “but every little bit helps,” she said.

“Without that additional support there are lots of things that the nonprofits won’t be able to do,” she said.

The Miami Valley CFC donated $25,000 last year to Honor Flight Dayton to fly veterans to Washington to view memorials commemorating their service.

“It’s important because we don’t have an advertising budget,” said Bill Nicklas, Honor Flight Dayton vice president. “We’ve been able to schedule and fund eight flights a year the past several years with no funding problems, and that’s partially because of the CFC campaign.”

At the United Way of Troy, Miami Valley CFC funds contribute $30,000, or about 4 percent of revenue, said Richard Bender, the agency’s executive director. “We’re hoping for the best,” he said.

Michael Roediger, executive director of the Dayton Art Institute, said CFC donations contribute less than $5,000 to the art museum, but every dollar matters in a tough economic climate.

“It’s hard to get people to go ahead (contribute) when you are not there with them, and so missing that opportunity I would suspect very few people will make the effort to make the contribution” online, he said.

Community Shares of Mid-Ohio, a federation of nonprofit charities, receives 10 percent, or $76,000, of its revenues through CFC donations, said executive director Teresa Trost.

“That’s not an insignificant sum for our charity,” she said.

Air Force Lt. Col. Thomas Crosson, a Pentagon spokesman, said when the government shutdown ends the charity campaign would resume.

“The best I could characterize it is quickly,” he said late Wednesday afternoon.

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