It is a cruel paradox that at times like these — when the lingering recession, unemployment and foreclosure crisis have stretched more and more families to the brink — the donations to the very charities that can help them make it through begin to dry up as well. At the United Way of Central Maryland, a good barometer for charitable giving in the region, donations dropped by 6 percent to 8 percent in each of the last two years, and amid a tentative recovery, they are expected to grow by just 1 percent this year.
The need, on the other hand, is growing exponentially. The United Way operates a call center to connect those in distress with charitable and government services; by dialing 211, callers can be connected with thousands of potential programs. Call volume has gone up tremendously, particularly in the Baltimore suburbs. Calls from Anne Arundel County are up 26 percent, and in Baltimore County they rose 32 percent. Volume is up 27 percent in Harford County, 20 percent in Carroll County, and 11 percent in Howard County.