Help the helpers: Resale shop closures, fundraiser cancellations leave WINGS in financial crunch

  • WINGS Resale Shops, including the one in Schaumburg, are closed until further notice due to COVID-19.

    WINGS Resale Shops, including the one in Schaumburg, are closed until further notice due to COVID-19. Courtesy of WINGS

 
Daily Herald report
Posted4/13/2020 6:00 AM

Social service agencies need your aid to succeed

It's a tough time for social service agencies. The COVID-19 crisis, along with social distancing, the rise in unemployment and the closure of nonessential businesses, has hit many suburban nonprofits hard.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

At the same time, many people are wondering how they can help those who have been affected by this crisis.

In a series of stories, the Daily Herald will take a look at how some suburban agencies have been affected and how readers can help -- or get help, as the case may be.

WINGS Program Inc.

Chicago and Palatine-based WINGS Program Inc., which provides housing and services to victims of domestic violence and their children, plus education and advocacy to end domestic violence, has been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis. The closure of its resale shops has resulted in a loss of revenue.

Rebecca Darr, president and CEO, is responsible for insuring that WINGS has the resources to provide those services, and works with the WINGS' board of directors and leadership councils to raise the funds necessary to support an $8 million operating budget.

The Daily Herald spoke to Darr to learn more about WINGS' challenges and how readers can help.

Q. Who does WINGS serve, and how do you serve them?

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A. WINGS serves men, women and children that are experiencing domestic violence and homelessness.

WINGS has made it a priority to provide high-quality facilities, intensive client support and an integrated continuum of housing and services for the clients we serve daily.

A key component is to employ safety planning and a model of understanding, recognizing and responding to the effects of all types of trauma a client may have experienced prior to coming to WINGS.

In addition, services such as counseling, legal advocacy, job skills training, job search support and children's services are made available to each client, as needed.

Q. From where does the majority of your donations come?

WINGS Resale Shops stock clothing, housewares, accessories and furniture. Due to the pandemic, all shops are closed until further notice.
WINGS Resale Shops stock clothing, housewares, accessories and furniture. Due to the pandemic, all shops are closed until further notice. - Courtesy of WINGS
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A. It comes from WINGS Resale Store revenue, fundraising events, contributions (from foundations, businesses, organizations, faith communities and individuals) and government contracts.

WINGS has three main fundraising events: Speakers Luncheon, Purple Tie Ball and Sweet Home Chicago.

Q. About how many people per year does your agency help?

A. 1,500 adults and children.

Q. How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your organization and its ability to help those in need?

A. We are currently caring for about 200 people in the safe houses and in our homes and apartments. All counseling and case management is being done remotely.

We had to move 11 families from our Suburban Safe House into individual hotel suites to reduce their risk of exposure to the virus through social distancing. This is an added cost burden to our operational expenses.

Shoppers line up during a sale Feb. 29 at a WINGS resale shop. "Now, the stores have gone dark and we have already lost close to $200,000 in revenue," says Rebecca Darr, CEO of WINGS.
Shoppers line up during a sale Feb. 29 at a WINGS resale shop. "Now, the stores have gone dark and we have already lost close to $200,000 in revenue," says Rebecca Darr, CEO of WINGS. - Courtesy of WINGS

We were forced to close our resale stores, which account for a significant portion of our revenue, between $45,000 and $55,000 per week. In addition, we postponed two events (our Speaker Luncheon and our 35th Anniversary Celebration) that were budgeted to bring in $475,000.

In addition to losing financial income, we have also experienced a reduction in donations of food, supplies and other in-kind donations that we rely upon to offset cash outlay for those necessary items.

Prior to this health crisis, we relied on hundreds of volunteers in every area of the organization, including important fundraising functions such as mass mailings to appeal for donations, but have had to close that program in accordance with the shelter in place order.

Q. How can readers help?

A. They can donate to the WINGS COVID-19 Relief Fund, wingsprogram.com/donate, and/or donate much needed in-kind items.

Q. If someone is in need of your organization's help, what should they do?

A. Call the 24-hour domestic violence hotline at (847) 221-5680.

Q. How can readers reach someone at your organization if they have questions?

A. They can call (847) 519-7820 or email wings@wingsprogram.com.

Q. Anything else you'd like readers to know about WINGS?

A. WINGS is celebrating our 35th anniversary this year. During the last 35 years, WINGS has been blessed to receive significant support from the community, including financial support, in-kind donations and thousands of hours of volunteer support.

As a result of these collective efforts, WINGS will celebrate a milestone in the next year of providing 1,000,000 nights of shelter. We need the support of community members now more than ever to insure that we remain open to reach that milestone.

We are committed to being here for victims of domestic violence during this crisis. This is a dangerous time for people who are trapped in a home with an abuser.

• Do you know of a social service agency we should profile? Email sklovstad@dailyherald.com.

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