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TIMES HOLIDAY CAMPAIGN

Paper Launches Drive to Help Less Fortunate

No administrative fees means all money goes to local charities, which report a great need.

October 29, 2002|Carla Rivera | Times Staff Writer

As a tough economy increases demand for food, housing and health services, the Los Angeles Times this week launches its annual Holiday Campaign to raise funds for Southern California charities that help needy children and families.

Over the next several weeks, The Times will run articles about disadvantaged families, many stretched to the breaking point by job losses, health woes, depressed wages and other social ills. Other stories will spotlight the growing demand on charitable agencies at a time when their funding has been pinched by the impact of stock market losses, government cutbacks and other economic forces.

The Times Holiday Campaign, established in 2000, is part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund and is administered by the McCormick Tribune Foundation. The foundation will match the first $700,000 raised at 50 cents on the dollar and The Times will absorb administrative costs for the campaign.

Last year, the public's donations to the holiday appeal and the matching funds raised $653,000 for 56 agencies in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties to help provide services for, among others, mentally and physically disabled children, early childhood literacy programs, teen parenting, and drug and alcohol abuse prevention.

Organizations that received grants last year include Covenant House California, Devonshire Police Activity League Supporter, Orange County Child Abuse Prevention and Special Olympics Southern California.

"A donation to the Los Angeles Times Holiday Campaign will help nonprofit organizations in Southern California provide food, clothing and shelter to disadvantaged children and youth," noted Times Publisher John Puerner.

Southern California's airline, hotel and restaurant industries are struggling to recover after the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks. Thousands of workers have exhausted savings and remain unemployed or are marginally employed.

The region's high cost of living, particularly in housing, is forcing many families to make sacrifices when buying food, paying monthly bills and seeing doctors, experts said.

By the same token, economic reports have charted declines in the purchasing power of those earning the minimum wage, increases in health insurance premiums and mortgage foreclosures at a 30-year high. In addition, declines in business investment and steep stock market losses are stunting private and corporate charity giving.

"After Sept. 11, we saw a 25% increase in demand at the food pantries we serve, and that has barely slackened," said Bruce Rankin, executive director of the Westside Food Bank, which received a $7,000 Times Holiday Campaign grant last year.

That helped fill the gap caused by a drop in donations from some past supporters, a decline that is exacerbated this year by the loss of other corporate giving, he said.

Helen Arriola, director of government and public relation at Northeast Valley Health Corp., which was awarded a $5,000 Times Holiday Campaign grant last year, said Los Angeles County's closure of several community health clinics, including ones in Burbank and North Hollywood, has increased demand for free or low-cost care at the clinics her agency runs.

"We tend to see, during the holidays, that families make a choice of going to the doctor or buying a little gift or having a little something extra on the table, so our visits decline. But in January, they shoot up again," she said.

The Times Holiday Campaign will accept applications from charities until Jan. 15, said Giselle Acevedo-Franco, the newspaper's vice president of public affairs and president of the Los Angeles Times Fund.

Procedures call for eligible applicants to be visited and their financial statements examined.

Final choices are made by the McCormick Tribune Foundation board of directors in Chicago. The checks will be presented in July.

"It's going to be a really hard year," said Najeeba Syeed-Miller, executive director of the Asian Pacific American Dispute Resolution Center of Los Angeles, which provides peer mediation services to youth. "But every little bit counts," she added. The nonprofit organization received $15,000 from last year's campaign.

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Times staff writer Erika Hayasaki contributed to this report.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

How to Give

Donations (checks or money orders) supporting the Los Angeles Times Holiday Campaign should be sent to: L.A. Times Holiday Campaign, File No. 56986, Los Angeles, CA 90074-6986. Please do not send cash. Credit card donations can be made on the Web site: www.latimes.com/holiday campaign.

All donations are tax deductible. Contributions of $25 or more will be acknowledged in The Times unless a donor requests otherwise. Acknowledgments cannot be guaranteed for donations received after Dec 18. For more information about the Holiday Campaign, call (800) LATIMES, ext. 75771.

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