NY Observer: Recession Takes Its Toll On NYC Charities

With eager determination some stay afloat

Fall 2011
By Emerald Pellot 

[Excerpt from article]
“The impact of the recession on Masbia can be measured by a number of gauges. Some of our big donors who helped us financially before the recession, can no longer help us,” said Alexander Rapaport, founder of Masbia. “Other donors have been awakened by the recession and prefer to give their money to emergency programs rather than a slew of other philanthropic causes.” Masbia was founded in 2005 by Mordechai Mondelbaum and Mr. Rapaport. The only kosher “soup kitchen” in the city was created in Brooklyn with a vision of feeding the hungry in a well-lit dignified setting. Masbia relies heavily on volunteers and only 10% of its funding is government based—for a grassroots organization like this, the recession can have serious consequences.

“We currently operate with close to a $500,000 deficit, which I don’t think would be the case without the recession,” Mr. Rapaport said. The kosher kitchen believes that it should serve first and figure out how to pay for its costs later; not a single person who arrives at Masbia leaves without a free meal.

“Last night, mid-shift, with two hours left to go, staff at our Williamsburg site noticed that they had no more cooked food left. They hopped over to a nearby restaurant and bought an additional 20 meals.The Masbia credit card was maxed out and staff had to lay out their own money for food.” In order to keep the Masbia vision a reality they’ve had to make some changes: from printing letterheads and receipts on an in-house ink jet printer to using one internet feed for computer and phone service that routinely overloads the bandwidth, Mr. Rapaport tells The Observer. The struggle to keep Masbia running has not only effected basic necessities, but what Masbia is able to serve.

“There were times when we were able to give whole chickens in these packages, and even some cuts of beef, but during the last few months we made do with chicken wings. Personally, the hardest part of my job is dealing with low morale when payroll is distributed late,” says Mr. Rapaport.

While the recession may have stifled some nonprofit services, Mr. Rapaport remains optimistic. Masbia must raise tens of thousands of dollars each week to keep its doors open and three million dollars to end the year in the black. While the Met Council offers its support, the rest of the fundraising is often up in the air.

Still Mr. Rapaport believes miracles happen quite often. “People surprise us every day. One [person] shows up with a pile of cans from a can drive, another with proceeds from a bake sale, an 11-year-old girl raised over $15,000 by opening a page on Crowdrise, or there’s an unsolicited donation online inspired by a story about us in a local newspaper.”

Read the original article HERE