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Goodwill Industries of North Florida often sees an uptick in end-of-year giving. Drew Vetter, manager of the Mandarin store, unloads bins of donated goods on New Year's Eve, which tends to be the busiest day of the year.
Jax Daily Record Thursday, Jan. 2, 201412:00 PM EST

Last-minute gifts big for charities

by: David Chapman

As the days counted down to 2014, many decide to write checks or make donations for those last-minute tax write-offs. For charities, the end-of-year "busy season" can be a boon.

"We always experience an uptick, really with the entire month," said Karen Phillips, Goodwill Industries of North Florida chief administrative officer.

The nonprofit collects donated items throughout 14 North Florida counties, then sells them at its 23 stores and online. Revenue goes toward training and placement services. Overall, store sales in 2013 were up 14.3 percent over 2012, she said.

Phillips said the organization averages about 12,000 donations a week, but last week through Sunday, that number exceeded 14,000. During the final week of 2012 there were 19,000 donations and early numbers as of Tuesday afternoon indicated that could be surpassed for 2013, she said.

"The main drive for people to get stuff in is obviously for tax purposes … people cleaning out closets, new year, new resolutions," she said. "It's a very important time for us."

Donations have an "ebb and flow," she said, and Goodwill has to maximize what it receives during these times — items collected in December and January often have to help the organization through the winter until spring cleaning begins, another busy time for the nonprofit.

One of the busier spots Tuesday was the Mandarin store at 9472 Old St. Augustine Road. The location has a drive-thru drop-off point and by late afternoon, the store's back room was brimming with donated items, in addition to those that already had been loaded on a tractor trailer.

By the end of business, nearly 400 drop-offs had been made.

The giving wasn't limited to items. Monetary donations also flowed throughout the community into nonprofits and can often set the tone for a year.

"It's an extremely critical time," said Amy Pierce, Jacksonville Humane Society development director. "A good portion of the development budget takes place in the last quarter of the year."

Pierce said the organization put the reminder out about last-minute giving through social media and direct mail campaigns and throughout the holiday season.

"It's nice to be top of mind," when people begin to determine where to donate, she said.

On its Web page, the society even had a "Countdown to give in 2013" calendar, ticking away the days, hours, minutes and seconds until 2014 began and last-minute giving ended.

As of Tuesday afternoon, about 75 people had made online donations ranging from $25-$1,000, with more expected until midnight, Pierce said.

"Today looks like a good day," she said.

Last-minute donations ranged far and wide throughout the community and, for an organization with broad goals like the United Way of Northeast Florida, can make a difference.

"We so much appreciate the generous contributions given at the end of the year," said Connie Hodges, United Way of Northeast Florida CEO. "These gifts combined with the donations from individuals and companies throughout the year create positive, lasting change in the community."

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