'So disappointing': B.C. charities struggling as gas prices soar

The soaring cost of gas is hitting charities in Metro Vancouver hard and organizations are worried they will soon have to make tough decisions and cuts to services if they don’t get some relief.

"It's just shocking every day because we drive by a gas station every day to work and go, 'No! That can't be what it is now!'” Said Vikki Stevenson, the executive director of Homestart, which provides free furniture and household items to people in need, including those moving out of shelters.

The charity didn't anticipate the sky-high gas prices a year ago when putting together its budget.

“It's so disappointing because we run on a pretty tight budget and that's never something that we factor in - having to go that high on gas. So, it's kind of a shock,” Stevenson said.

"For $100 at the end of April -- when we thought gas was high – we got 50 litres. And today, for the same $100, we got slightly over 40 litres. So, it makes a big difference,” she added.

The organization charges donors a feee for picking up and taking away their used furniture. It's already increased the cost for pickups from $50 to $75 to offset the cost of fuel. It's now looking at increasing that cost to $100 very soon, which might discourage prospective donors.

The Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society is also feeling the pinch as it actively seeks more funding. Their volunteers are reimbursed for gas so they don't have to pay out-of-pocket.

“We've already increased our reimbursement rate by 5 cents this year. Just that 5 cents means almost $40,000 for our bottom line,” said Gord Locke, a director with the organization.

He also said he has noticed fewer volunteers willing to drive, which he also thinks is connected to the record-high gas prices.

A shortage of drivers has serious consequences for the people who rely on the service, Locke says. Some patients have missed appointments because no driver was available.

"In some situations it may have occurred, unfortunately. It's just that balance of trying to have enough drivers to meet that demand,” Locke said.

Karen Sidhu of Surrey Crime Prevention Society said she feels frustrated and uneasy about the high cost of fuel and fears if her charity doesn’t secure enough funding, she might have to cut some programs. The organization also uses volunteer drivers.

"The fact this is impacting not only us but impacting other charities. And I don't want to see any changes to our programs,” she said.

She also said she’s grateful for the generous donations from the local community which are helping the organization stay afloat.

Sidhu, like thise at other organizations, says she hopes the government will provide some temporary relief to charities that rely on drivers to deliver their programs and services,

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