More MS news articles for Oct 2001

Charities fear well may dry up

Monday, October 01 2001
By Susan Abram
Staff Writer

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 has boosted interest in volunteering and donating, but some nonprofit organizations that specialize in services for the sick say they soon may be hurting.

A sluggish economy before the attacks and a focus on helping the families of the victims since has some local agencies bracing for an uncertain future.

Some are concerned that those who live with cancer, leukemia, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other illnesses will be forgotten, even though reminders are out there. October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month and AIDS Awareness Month.

"It's going to be tough," said Alon Marom, executive director of the Stamford-based Global Health Organization. The nonprofit agency, less than a year old, provides comprehensive health care to the sick and needy.

At the Oyster Festival in Norwalk earlier this month, the organization administered more than 170 hepatitis AB shots. Future goals include HIV-prevention and treatment in Africa, where AIDS has become a sweeping epidemic. Two weeks ago, Global Health organized Stamford's first citywide candle vigil in response to the attacks, an event to help the community grieve together.

While Marom praised the efforts of those donating time and money to the terrorist attack victims, others also need support, he said. People in other countries who count on the United States for food and medicine are being forgotten, he said.

In the coming months, organizations such as Global Health will face tough decisions, including a possible restructuring of their goals or joining other groups with a similar mission.

"The stronger organizations are going to come together and the not so large ones will probably fold," Marom said.

Those who head the more established organizations are steeling themselves but staying positive.

Umbrella organizations in which smaller agencies depend on to raise funds hope the spirit of giving will continue.

The United Way of Stamford kicked off its fund-raising campaign last week with a goal of raising $2 million for various services citywide.

The agency distributes funds to 35 city-based programs, including the Red Cross, the Domestic Violence Crisis Center, the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County, the Boys & Girls Club and the Child Guidance Center.

"It certainly is a very difficult time," said Betty Fairbanks, executive director for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's Western Connecticut chapter, based in Norwalk. "We have a mission here to take care of people with MS, and our overall message remains the same. But we have to go on with the sensitivity and the expectation that we may not do very well" raising funds this year.

Fairbanks said most social service agencies, such as the American Red Cross and the March of Dimes, were born during times of adversity and have survived.

"America hasn't changed and people will step up to help all those who need," she said.

The chapter has planned a fund-raiser for next month at the Greenwich Hyatt Regency Hotel. The gala will be conservative, Fairbanks said.

Other organizations are trying to move on. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Stamford has held two walks since the attacks to raise money for those who use their services. Neither of the events attracted much media attention but drew more participants than usual, Executive Director Mike Angarola said.

"The participants were there, but the amount of donations took a dip," he said. "Even though people may be giving less, we have to continue our mission."

The society raised a little more than $100,000. Last year, they raised $150,000.

The American Cancer Society is promoting National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, beginning today. Though the organization is well-established, the local chapter is concerned.

"If I had scheduled a gala for this week, I would be canceling it," said Chris Boynton, vice president of the American Cancer Society chapter based in Wilton.

But he remains hopeful, Boynton said.

"Anytime people become more interested in helping, they usually help all," he said.

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