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Alabama charities pick up the pieces following a rough 2021

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Gulf coast non-profit relief groups say a combination of COVID, hurricanes, and tornadoes have stretched them to the limit. COVID-19 shutdowns and social distancing made fundraising tough for the United Way of Southwest Alabama. Staff members couldn’t enter businesses to ask for donations, which cost the agency hundreds of thousands of dollars. Governmental grants helped after hurricanes Sally, Zeta and Ida. Executive Director Jill Chenowith says they also helped partner agencies stay open.

“In some cases, we paid their power bill for the month because they didn't have any money coming in,” said Chenowith. “In other cases like Feeding the Gulf Coast, they were feeding more people than they've ever fed."

The Delta variant of the Coronavirus kept Gulf coast hospitals full and many people out of work. Hurricane Ida forced New Orleans residents to flee to Mobile. Chenowith says that meant full motels full of people needing assistance.

“At one point we probably had over 20,000, some estimates are up to 50,000 folks that evacuated from Louisiana and Mississippi over here,” she recalls. “A lot of those folks, all they had was the gas money to get here.”

Chenowith says it’s hard to predict the future. But she expects another difficult year for non-profits in 2022 as the Coronavirus continues.

Lynn Oldshue is a reporter for Alabama Public Radio.
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