It's come to this, according to Melissa Magers: "People who used to be donors now are clients" at food pantries, homeless shelters and free clinics.

It’s come to this, according to Melissa Magers: “People who used to be donors now are clients” at food pantries, homeless shelters and free clinics.

After being involved with Community Shares of Mid Ohio since the inception in 1992, and after serving 16 years as executive director, Magers is stepping down.

“I am retiring to take care of my mom,” she said recently.

Magers has seen a lot of changes in that time, both within the organization she helped found and in the need for assistance by members in achieving funding goals. The Community Shares of Mid Ohio is supported by workplace fundraising drives in the public and private sectors that allow payroll contributions to be made to the charity or nonprofit of an individual’s choice.

“What I have seen from ’92 to present times is the need for nonprofit services is even more critical,” Magers said during a recent interview. “The need has increased for nonprofits to deliver programs to the community on so many issues, and I think that has been reflected in the explosion of nonprofits in central Ohio, as well as throughout the country. There are just hundreds and hundreds, I would say thousands, of nonprofits in central Ohio.”

Community Shares of Mid Ohio member organizations range in size from those run entirely by volunteers to multimillion dollar operations, Magers pointed out. They do everything from helping keep stray animals off street to protecting abused children to sheltering the homeless.

“Certainly, the economy has put pressure on nonprofits in two keen ways,” she said. “No. 1, the need for the services is more important than ever, whether you’re talking food pantries, shelters — all of these are experiencing tremendous demand. They’ve seen populations of folks who come in and use their services just explode. Nonprofits are basically the last line of defense for many people.

“At the same time, fundraising for nonprofits has become even more challenging, because as much as the economy has impacted people needing nonprofit services, with people losing their jobs or not getting raises, it’s harder and harder for folks to donate.”

Also, Magers continued, local governments are reducing expenditures.

“People who used to be donors now are clients” at food pantries, homeless shelters and free clinics, she said.

Magers will be missed, according to the heads of two organizations that were members of the Clintonville-based Community Shares.

“Through Melissa’s leadership. Community Shares has not only provided financial resources to Cat Welfare, for which we are very grateful, but has assisted us in finding volunteers, marketing our programs and helping us care for more cats,” said Northland resident Chuck Wolfe, executive director of the Cat Welfare Association.

“I’ve known Melissa for many years, and I admire her dedication in building Community Shares to what is today and her commitment in building a strong community,” he added.

“Due to Melissa’s tireless effort within CoSMO, she has run a campaign that successfully raised funds for many organizations in need, including Deaf Services Center,” CEO and executive director John Moore said. “Melissa has been the beacon of CoSMO for 19 years and will be missed by many for her efforts.”

When Community Shares of Mid Ohio was founded, by Magers and others who saw a need to help make fundraising less burdensome on charities, it had 16 members. Today, she said, it has 65.

Community Shares has been able to develop many different workplace campaigns over the years, including with the city of Columbus and several local school districts. Magers believes these have meant more contributions to nonprofit organizations. She specifically mentioned that Ohio State University back in 1996 was a United Way of Central Ohio-only organization, and contributions were around $500,000 a year. OSU now includes the United Way organization of adjoining counties and Community Shares, and raises $1.3 million a year.

“So OSU has more than doubled what they’re able to raise through community giving campaigns and it was Community Shares that did that,” Magers said.

She went on to say that she’s proud of the diversity of these organizations, from the faith-based to those dealing with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, from ones serving people with disabilities to others helping veterans and including those involved in civil rights, social justice and violence-prevention projects.

“The coalition that we’ve been able to build in all these different areas and people getting along and working together in all of these areas É I think that is also something to be proud of,” Magers said.

Having been involved from the outset, she said she’s proud to know that the vision the founders of the organization had in 1992 is still true to this day, and she predicted it will remain so after she departs at the end of November.

“Great staff, great board members, engaged and involved member agencies,” she said. “The mission is the critical piece. It’s not the person.”

kparks@thisweeknews.com

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