HALIFAX -- The COVID-19 pandemic is presenting challenges for all Canadians, but it’s also been very hard for charities that help those in need during tough times like these.

This December 1st, marked the eighth annual ‘Giving Tuesday’, celebrated the Tuesday after American Thanksgiving.

After major shopping sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the motivation behind Giving Tuesday is to give back to charities in need.

Operations like Halifax’s Mission Mart charity thrift store have had to deal with increased pandemic restrictions lately, on top of what’s already been a challenging year for charities in the Maritimes.

“Customers have gone down 30 to 40 per cent,” says Michelle Porter, founder and CEO of Souls Harbour Rescue Mission. “We don’t know if that’s just because they think we’re closed, or it’s because people are just staying out of the Bayers Lake area for now.”

Mission Mart raises money for Souls Harbour Rescue Mission, a charity that Porter and her husband founded in 2000 in Regina, Saskatchewan, before bringing it out east to Halifax in 2010.

Souls Harbour provides free, hot meals to those who need them. But recently added gathering restrictions in the Halifax area means keeping volunteers out of their kitchens just to keep the numbers down.

All this while Porter says the demand for meals is steadily going up.

“We’re looking at 15,000 meals, $75,000… it adds up,” says Porter.

Making events like Giving Tuesday more important than ever to help keep charities like Souls Harbour going during a difficult time.

“This month is very, very important,” says Marina Glogovac, President/CEO of Canada Helps.

The organization that brought Giving Tuesday to Canada says this December could make or break some charities, especially as many people struggle with their own finances.

A September Angus Reid poll found nearly 40 per cent of Canadians who normally give to charity, are now giving less.

“It’s not a good combination,” says Glogovac. “The lack of funding and the worsening and the unfolding economic crisis, combined with the fact that charities are here to serve and help the most vulnerable.”

In Fredericton, New Brunswick, a local feed bank has also seen an increased demand since the pandemic reached the Maritimes in March.

So they have increased food deliveries and introduced a drive-thru service.

“Certainly it’s more challenging financially this year,” says Alex Boyd, director of the Fredericton Food Bank at Greener Village.

Boyd says not only are there added costs for transportation and extra cleaning, but it is more difficult to get volunteers, putting increased pressure on Food Bank staff.

“Volunteers are a little bit more nervous about getting out, especially a lot of the retired volunteers that we have that are in a higher risk demographic. So our staffing costs are going up,” says Boyd.

Despite the challenges facing charities, there is some reason for optimism.

“This pandemic has really forced us to think differently,” says Stephen Harding, President and CEO of the Dartmouth General Hospital Foundation.

Harding says the Dartmouth General Hospital Foundation has moved its fundraising online, and donors have followed, helping the foundation raise enough to meet critical pandemic needs.

With the pandemic continuing into the new year, charities hope donors keep on giving beyond Giving Tuesday, as the increased need for charitable services will continue.