Kathy Breen opened the refrigerator doors at Scottsdale's Vista del Camino Community Center and saw empty shelves that would normally be stocked with meat and eggs. But these aren't normal times and economic woes have hit the region's nonprofit organizations especially hard.
"People who used to donate are now coming in to receive donations," said Breen, Scottsdale's human services manager. "It's not just the working poor seeking assistance."
As of Sept. 30, food banks across the state saw a 20 percent increase in new clients requesting emergency food boxes compared to the same time period last year, according to the Association of Arizona Food Banks.
But the need extends beyond food.
Vista del Camino, the city-run social service center, faces an uphill challenge as more residents than ever in recent times are unable to pay their rent or utility bills.
Aid from mortgage and utility assistance programs is up $40,000 compared to this time last year, according to Breen. And Vista del Camino has already spent 87 percent, or $89,000, of its current allotment distributed by Maricopa County's Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which assists people who are unable to pay their utilities.
"This is a huge and unprecedented increase for us," Breen said.
For mortgage payments, Vista has provided $13,500 out of its allocated $14,000.
Utility providers, however, won't usually shut off water or electricity if they know their clients have come to Vista for help, Breen said.
Vista del Camino also offers career assistance and provides programs that teach résumé writing and interviewing skills for those who recently lost their jobs.
Those services also are seeing increased use, especially among those hit hard by the mortgage crisis, said Paul Ludwick, Scottsdale's human services director.
"We're seeing the impact of foreclosures," Ludwick said. "People have been getting laid off and they are unable to pay their mortgage."
My Sisters' Place, a nonprofit women's shelter run by Catholic Charities, saw a 25 percent decrease in cash donations for the month of September compared to last year. Yvonne Taylor, director of domestic violence programs for Catholic Charities, expects the percentage to worsen for the last quarter of the calender year.
"We depend heavily on cash donations to round out our budget," Taylor said. "It's a big concern because we've received fewer donations this year."
A New Leaf, formally PREHAB of Arizona, provides more than 25 programs for families in need of assistance.
Torrie Taj, executive vice president of marketing and development, said she has seen support decline, as well.
"We are definitely seeing a decrease in annual support from individuals and companies," Taj said. "When the economy is down, the need for social services increases."
Every year, Vista del Camino registers 550 families through the Adopt-A-Family Thanksgiving program. Those families only receive food if they are sponsored.
As of last week, about 100 of those families had been sponsored.
"I think people will rise to the occasion," Ludwick said. "I have faith in people's desire to help out."
Vista del Camino is asking for a $25 grocery gift card so families can purchase a turkey or ham. Donors also are being asked to drop off traditional Thanksgiving food such as potatoes (fresh or instant), sweet potatoes, gravy, canned vegetables and fruit, cranberry sauce, stuffing mix, Jell-O, desserts or one large can of pumpkin, chicken broth, pickles or olives and rolls.