How to lend a helping hand to hard-hit Las Vegas charities

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Steve Marcus

Cars line up during a drive-thru Three Square food distribution at Palace Station Thursday, April 9, 2020.

Thu, Nov 26, 2020 (2 a.m.)

The health and economic crisis created by the coronavirus pandemic has painfully impacted many Las Vegas residents.

The unemployment rate, once as high as 30%, still sits at 12%. A second surge of the virus has brought about 1,500 daily cases, and aid has mostly dried up with no significant progress on a second round of federal stimulus.

Local charities, most of which have expanded offerings during the pandemic, stand ready to provide continued support. They see the pain and suffering and are determined to lend a helping hand.

But they need your help as donations aren’t as plentiful and need is greater. Here’s how you can help a few of them:

Three Square Food Bank

Lines of cars at many valleywide Three Square Food Bank distribution centers frequently wrap around city blocks as needy Las Vegans scramble to feed their families during the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic.

Consider this: The food bank distributed 1.1 million pounds of food each week during the second quarter of 2019; this year in the second quarter, it distributed 1.36 million.

“In 2019, there were more than 272,000 individuals in our community facing food insecurity. Now, there are nearly 440,000, including more than 173,000 children, who don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” said Larry Scott, Three Square’s chief operating officer.

Monetary donations made to Three Square through the end of the year will be matched dollar-for-dollar by local businesses as part of the annual Holiday Match Challenge, enabling the food bank to provide six meals for each dollar donated. Food bank officials say 93 cents of every dollar goes toward the nonprofit’s mission of providing food to hungry people. To donate.

Nonperishable food donations are also welcome, including canned tuna, canned fruits and vegetables, and boxed cereals. To donate.

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Volunteers ready more, little pumpkin pies as Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada serves their 51st consecutive free Thanksgiving meal to roughly 1,000 homeless and vulnerable men, women and children on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016.

Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada

Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada is typically flooded with residents looking to volunteer during the holidays. This year, because of the pandemic creating more needy residents, helping out is even be more important, officials say.

It just will have a different look and feel.

With safety protocols, volunteering can’t be done at the group’s downtown campus. In lieu of in-person opportunities, representatives are urging supporters to consider becoming a youth mentor, donating through AmazonSmile, or knitting a winter accessory such as gloves.

The youth mentor program is a two-hour weekly commitment for a year; it pairs volunteers with a refugee for guidance in their educational and career growth.

“It’s been an adjustment this year for all of us, but even as this holiday differs greatly from the last, we remain fully committed to our mission,” said Deacon Tom Roberts, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, in a statement. “We urge all Southern Nevadans to please consider opening up their hearts and contributing what they can to assist our neighbors in need this holiday season.”

For more on remote volunteering.

And, of course, Catholic Charities is always in need of donations. Donate here.

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A look at the various shoes avaiable for students in need at the Communities in Schools classroom at Sunrise Mountain High School, Friday Jan. 13, 2017.

Communities in Schools

Communities in Schools, which strives to close the inequity gap for children in poverty so they can achieve in school, has seen an enhanced student need during the pandemic.

The Communities in Schools model is heavily focused on students being on campus, where the group has a resource room stocked with critical supplies — bus passes, clothing and more — and can better identify who needs aid.

They are located in about 50 Title I schools throughout the valley, and during the pandemic, site coordinators have been working the neighborhood near the school to determine need and bring aid.

That’s because learning remotely has widened the equity gap and presented many challenges to the 60,000 families they work with, everything from technology struggles in securing a computer and internet access, to having access to educators whose support is desperately missed.

That’s where Communities in Schools is attempting to bridge the gap, especially when it comes to meals. About two-thirds of the Clark County School District’s 300,000 students qualify for free or reduced-price meals. They’ve helped with stocking pantries, internet access, psychological needs and more.

To donate.

Rebuilding Together Southern Nevada

Rebuilding Together Southern Nevada has made free home repairs for vulnerable, low-income residents since the mid-1990s. Most of the work is done for senior citizens, veterans and the disabled.

The pandemic has amplified the need, especially for seniors who make up half of the nonprofit’s client base.

“During the pandemic, it’s important to recognize that for those living in a home with broken HVAC units or a failing roof, staying in the house can be just as dangerous as leaving it,” said Bob Cleveland, the group’s executive director. “This is the case for seniors as they are considered high-risk for complications from COVID-19 and are encouraged by state and public health officials to remain in their homes.”

Like all nonprofits, Rebuilding Together has experienced a dip in private donations of approximately 40% over the past nine months, the group said.

In 2019, they performed 101 repairs for 189 needy homeowners. In 2020, the need has vastly increased to more than 250 as the pandemic has brought an economic crisis.

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Chet Buchanan poses in front of a sea of about 2,800 bicycles from his KLUC-FM 98.5 Toy Drive perch at NV Energy on West Sahara Avenue, just west of Jones Boulevard, on Friday, Dec. 12 2015.

KLUC Toy Drive

Radio personality Chet Buchanan will spend 12 days living atop a 30-foot scaffold outside the NV Energy building on Sahara Avenue to help children have a memorable holiday.

The KLUC Toy Drive, in conjunction with HELP of Southern Nevada, has become a great December tradition over the past 20 years for residents, who in 2019 combined to fill 41 large moving trucks with toys. They also collected 9,540 bicycles and $603,320 in cash and gift cards.

“It’s a hand up, not a hand out,” Buchanan said. “I stopped trying to count how many people have come back to donate to Toy Drive with tears in their eyes because not long before we helped them.”

Residents can drop off new, unwrapped toys and bicycles, and cash and gift cards from 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Dec. 3-13, and 6 a.m.-10 a.m Dec. 14.

It’s a contactless donation process because of the pandemic. Patrons are asked to place the donation in the trunk of their vehicle before arriving. An attendant will remove the donation and sanitize it.

HELP of Southern Nevada handles distributing the items.

Hope for Prisoners

Hope for Prisoners, which helps released prisoners reenter the workforce through education and leadership programs, has seen a drop of about 30% in annual giving.

Many of the group’s fundraising opportunities are event-driven, and with no events because of the pandemic they haven’t been able to fill the gap.

“In the nonprofit sector, we are all competing for the same dollar and this is not a population that is readily thought of,” said Paula Lawrence, the group’s chief development officer.

They also had to shelve their 50 Christmases event because of the pandemic. That’s when prisoners are released for one day to reconnect with their family for a supervised Christmas celebration — a couch and gift under the tree are part of the setup for 50 families at the Crossing Church.

To donate.

Mayor’s Fund for Las Vegas LIFE

Mayor’s Fund for Las Vegas LIFE was established two years ago to pair philanthropic partners with outreach initiatives hosted by the city of Las Vegas.

It has helped support for underfunded programs such as youth sports and job-readiness training. It has provided disadvantaged families with educational needs, such as internet access for remote learning during the COVID-19 school closures and free preschool program.

But the most significant need the last nine months has been aiding the homeless population during the pandemic.

Whether it’s coordinating coronavirus tests or securing short-term or transitional housing, “the majority of energy is serving our homeless population," said Lisa Morris Hibbler, the city’s chief community services officer.

In the initial weeks of the pandemic, the fund was instrumental in securing donations for supplies used at the Isolation and Quarantine Complex at Cashman Center, a 500-bed quarantine facility for the Las Vegas homeless. “We have learned things are not readily available,” Hibbler said about basics such as sheets and face masks.

She added, “We couldn’t get water. It seems simple, but to a person who is thirsty, it is a critical item.”

Donations to the fund have been made by individuals for as little as $5 or by corporations for hundreds of thousands of dollars. With virus cases surging, the need — especially when helping the homeless — isn’t going away.

Donate through the Nevada Community Foundation.

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