Shutdown suspends charity drive, future donations uncertain.
by Eddie Burkhalter
Oct 16, 2013 | 2649 views |  0 comments | 49 49 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Maudeen Holloway, executive director of Community Enabler looks over her food supply. Photo by Stephen Gross.
Maudeen Holloway, executive director of Community Enabler looks over her food supply. Photo by Stephen Gross.
Parts of a program that lets Department of Defense and other federal workers donate to charities have been suspended because of the government shutdown, leaving local groups wondering about their budgets.

The Pentagon ruled last week that the Combined Federal Campaign, which allows federal workers to contribute to charities through payroll deductions, could not sign up new donors during the shutdown. A deal reached in Washington on Wednesday to end the shutdown is likely to bring the program back, but it was not immediately clear how quickly that might happen, or how the campaign would be affected in the long run.

Gloria Peterson, resource development director for United Way of East Central Alabama, said most local federal agencies had begun their Combined Federal Campaign programs’ fundraisers before the Department of Defense announced suspension of such activities Oct. 9.

“They simply cannot solicit more donations during the shutdown,” Peterson said.

Peterson worries, however, that the threat of future government shutdowns could also affect the way those workers donate in the coming months.

“A lot of local charities depend on the money,” Peterson said.

Money collected through the program, largely through payroll deductions, is paid to charities through the United Way. Peterson said pledge cards at most local agencies had already been passed out and some workers had signed up before Oct. 9.

Peterson said last year the East Alabama Combined Federal Campaign, which includes Calhoun, Cleburne, Etowah, Randolph, Talladega and Tallapoosa counties, collected $377,360.

Local federal agencies that operate Combined Federal Campaigns are the Anniston Army Depot, the Center for Domestic Preparedness, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Anniston, the Talladega Federal Prison and Social Security and post offices throughout the local program’s six-county area.

The program was scheduled to run an annual fundraiser from Sept. 1 through Dec. 15.

“A lot of people are going to encourage the Office of Personnel Management to extend the campaign to Jan. 15,” Peterson said. That will help make up for time lost, she said.

Maudine Holloway, director of Community Enabler Developer, said the Anniston nonprofit received $5,084 last year from the program.

Community Enabler provides food and clothing assistance to low-income residents.

While that may not seem like much money, Holloway said it is used to buy food for those in need. Losing all or a portion of that money would be devastating to the agency’s food supply, she said.

Holloway said Community Enabler’s total budget last year was about $124,000.

“We were skating on thin ice,” Holloway said, speaking of last year’s budget. “We don’t have money now for food. If we don’t get this, we’re not going to have enough for next year.”

The Defense Department announced suspension of the program’s training and fundraisers in an Oct. 9 memo from Susan Yarwood, human resources director with Washington Headquarters Services.

Pentagon officials determined the Combined Federal Campaign was not covered under the Pay Our Military Act, which brought back about 90 percent of Department of Defense workers who had been furloughed by the shutdown, according to the memo.

Department of Defense workers already signed on to the program may still donate through paycheck deductions, the memo states.

Danielle Ballenger, finance officer at the Anniston domestic violence shelter 2nd Chance, said the agency received $4,339 last year from the Combined Federal Campaign.

Administrators at the organization aren’t sure how the government shutdown will affect money received from the federal program, Ballenger said.

Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.

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