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UNITED WAY COLUMN: Try volunteering from home

“Give: Advocate: Volunteer” is a United Way slogan we’ve been using for several years, and you may see it on our black and white T-shirts around town.

Salem Taylor

It means that there are many ways to get involved, whether it’s a financial donation, speaking up about a cause that matters to you or sharing your energy and talent.

Volunteering is a huge part of our mission, since putting your hands into helping in a direct way is incredibly rewarding and fun.

Those of you who have served lunches at the Community Table, swung a hammer at a Habitat build or stacked cans in the pantry at Stanly Community Christian Ministry know what a great feeling it is to work alongside other people and share your time and skills to help out with a project.

This year looks a little bit different, however, with many volunteer opportunities being put on hold due to the pandemic, as well as safety concerns about working in public spaces.

We’ve been “hunkering down” for months now (to quote the lovable Instagram sensation Leslie Jordan), waiting and watching to see when life will return to normal.

As of right now, it seems like we will be dealing with COVID-19 to a certain degree for the rest of 2020, and our community is adapting the best that we can.

The good news is that volunteering is alive and well, and that there are plenty of ways that you (and your family/friends/kids) can help out without going out and doing group projects or in some cases, without even leaving home.

Doing a supply drive to collect needed items is still incredibly helpful for many local nonprofits, and is easy to do if you are still connecting with your co-workers, church or neighbors (Zoom is our new favorite social tool).

Here are some drive ideas:

• Cleaning products, feminine products, hair care, makeup and hygiene items for Esther House, the women’s domestic violence/sexual assault shelter. Unused makeup samples and cosmetic bags (clean out your bathroom closet) are also very useful.

• Household cleaning products, paper towels, laundry detergent, toilet paper, basic kitchen items, towels and bedding (full and twin) for Homes of Hope, who provides transitional housing for homeless families with children.

• Socks, underwear (men’s and women’s), sunscreen, deodorant, personal cleaning wipes and individually wrapped snack foods for the Community Inn homeless shelter.

• Bar soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, laundry detergent and household cleaning products for Stanly Community Christian Ministry.

Basically everyone needs household cleaning products (disinfectant spray, all purpose cleaner, bathroom disinfectant, Clorox wipes, bleach, etc). These have been in short supply in stores, and people who live with someone who is COVID positive have to clean their house very thoroughly to control the spread.

If you’re more of a crafting type of person, or need something to keep yourself busy this summer, consider the following DIY projects:

• Making fabric masks: Instructions can be found on YouTube and Pinterest, and supplies are very simple. Check out our website at www.unitedwaystanly.org under Current Events for a detailed list. Masks can be donated to almost any nonprofit and put to good use.

• COVID Personal Protection Kits: These items are in high demand and can help keep someone safe who has to work with the public. Kits can contain masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, plus a little encouraging note.

• Be a penpal to a resident of a facility; These folks have had an incredibly lonely year since COVID has restricted visitors to nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Getting cards and letters from a new friend (of any age) would brighten their day more than you know. For a list of people who need a penpal, contact us at info@unitedwaystanly.org.

• Make cards for shut-ins and seniors: If you enjoy paper crafting, this is one for you. Even kids can help draw and color cards for people who get Meals on Wheels deliveries. Cards can be brought to the Stanly County Senior Services center, or dropped off here at the United Way office located inside the YMCA.

• Activity Kits for Seniors: Help spread kindness and joy by creating activity kits for older adults to battle to long days of isolation and boredom. Items such as crossword puzzles, Sudoku books, jigsaw puzzles, magazines, stationery, pens, sugar-free candy, coloring sheets and post cards put in a tote bag with a kind note would be a welcome gift. Bags can be dropped off at the Senior Center or United Way office.

• Care Kits for Kids: More kids are at home this summer than ever before, and home isn’t always a place full of adequate toys and educational things to fill the long days. Care Kits for younger children can be a backpack or drawstring bag with coloring books, markers/crayons, books, stuffed animals, non-perishable snacks, bubbles, sunglasses or toys. Care Kits for older children can contain stationery (pens, pencils, notepads, sharpeners, markers, art supplies), books (adult coloring books, graphic novels and YA fiction are big hits), earbuds, non-perishable snacks, card games and DVDs). Kits can be brought to the United Way office for distribution through social service partners.

Hopefully this has inspired you to take on a new summer project that will make life a little easier for someone else in our community. Contact us at info@unitedwaystanly.org or 704-982-6916 with any questions.

Salem Taylor is the executive director of the United Way of Stanly County.