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Charlotte Area

How To Give Back This Holiday Season

Loaves and Fishes mobile food pantry.
Courtesy Loaves & Fishes
Loaves & Fishes food pantry networks are now mobile, offering drive-up service. They also deliver to homebound people.

The holiday season will be different for many families this year. The Centers for Disease Control has recommended downsizing the number of guests for Thanksgiving dinner, and Gov. Roy Cooper says North Carolina will remain "paused" in Phase 3 and has reduced the number of people for indoor gatherings from 25 to 10.

Despite the changes, it is still the time of giving, and there are plenty of people wondering, "how can I volunteer and donate during a pandemic?"

We have made a list of organizations and described how they will be accepting donations and if they are allowing volunteers.

Camino Community Center

The Camino Community center has a thrift store and a food pantry that is open on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from noon to 3:00 p.m.

"People do need to fill out an application, but our food pantry is a mini-grocery story," said Paola Garcia, the community center's social media manager. "People can go and pick out the food that they want and the food that they need."

In addition to the pantry and the thrift store, Camino Community Center also has a health clinic, an alternative to health insurance.

"The main population that we serve are people of the Latino community," says Garcia. "It's a great way for people who can't afford to go to the hospital and to go to a traditional doctor for them to seek the care that they deserve in a language that they can understand because most of our practitioners speak Spanish."

For the holiday season, Camino will have a walk-through event called Christmas at Camino. Families will enjoy a stroll through a winter wonderland, view a live nativity, and listen to music.

How you can help

During this time, people can volunteer in-person at Camino Community Center. However, all volunteers must social distance and wear a mask, and the community center is following all state regulations. The community center does provide masks and hand sanitizers.

The community center's biggest needs are donations for the food pantry and the thrift store.

Loaves & Fishes

Loaves and Fishes delivery
During the coronavirus pandemic, Loaves & Fishes delivers food to homebound clients. The organization needs volunteer delivery drivers and food packagers.

Loaves & Fishes is a network of emergency food pantries serving the Charlotte area.

The organization had over 4,000 volunteers running the pantry and warehouse before the pandemic. Now their food pantries are mobile and have also started to deliver food boxes to their clients. Since April, Loaves & Fishes have provided food to 5,000 families.

How you can help

Because Loaves & Fishes food pantry networks are now mobile and deliver to homebound clients, they need delivery drivers and food packagers.

"Volunteers can help pack our emergency food boxes," said the Marketing and Events Director Sue Bruce. "That's an opportunity for individuals or groups of up to ten people. We keep everyone socially distanced and masked, and they're packing food into emergency food boxes that are either taken to our mobile pantries or delivered to our homebound clients."

In addition to packing and delivering, Bruce says volunteers can also organize a food drive at their workplace, neighborhood, or congregation.

Additionally, people can donate funds at their website.

Pat's Place Child Advocacy Center

Pat's Place Child Advocacy Center serves about 700 children a year. They coordinate the investigations, prosecutions, and treatment of the severe cases of child abuse in Mecklenburg County and help children from birth up to 18.

How you can help

They are currently not accepting volunteers; however, Kelly Navarro, development and communications associate for the advocacy center, encourages people to donate snacks, drinks, and toys. These donations need to be dropped off at 901 East Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28203 noon on Thursdays.

"If people are interested in financial contributions, they can directly impact a family by providing a Harris Teeter gift card or a Target gift card, so that these families can buy coats and groceries," said Navarro.

Charlotte Rescue Mission

Charlotte Rescue Mission helps people who are battling drug addiction and offers a 120-day residential drug abuse recovery program that allows people to move beyond homelessness and addiction.

Charlotte Rescue Mission's Tony Marciano says, "You can boil Charlotte Rescue Mission down to one word, and that word is transformation. We uniquely work from the inside out to address the root cause [of addiction]."

How you can help

Charlotte Rescue Mission would typically have 120 volunteers during Thanksgiving, but because of the pandemic, the organization had to limit the number of volunteers and is currently not accepting volunteers.

Marciano says the organization needs 700 more turkeys for their Thanksgiving Outreach Campaign and encourages people to drop the turkeys off at Charlotte Rescue Mission at 907 West First Street by Saturday, at noon.

Additionally, people can visit their website and see the organization's wish list.

Gracious Hands Transitional Housing

Gracious Hands Transitional Housing serves homeless women with children in the Charlotte area. While housing these families, Gracious Hands Transitional Housing provides financial coaching and provides the tools for a stable life.

How you can help

Gracious Hands Transitional Housing is not accepting volunteers due to the pandemic. However, Sonja Chisolm, the founder and director of the non-profit, says they need financial donations. People who are interested can adopt a family for a while.

"The family will still reside at Gracious Hands," said Chisolm. "However, any donation that comes in for the family helps us to pay the light bills, provide Pampers, wipes and soaps and deodorants to help the women and their children."

For more details about donations and adopting a family, visit their website here.

Safe Alliance

Safe Alliance’s mission is to provide healing and support for people who were impacted by domestic violence and sexual assault. Additionally, they offer various programs and services like the Greater Charlotte Hope Line and Clyde & Ethel Dickson Domestic Violence Shelter.

How you can help

Due to the pandemic, Safe Alliance is not currently taking volunteers. Sharra Smith, the Client Care Specialist for the organization, says that they do accept donations and they can be dropped off at their main office located on 601 East Fifth Street-Administrative Office Suite 400. “As of right now, for precaution, we will not take any clothing or linen that’s been used. So, any type of bedding, clothes, towels, all must be brand new with tags still on them,” Smith said.

Smith says they can take gently used pack n’ plays and strollers. Safe Alliance is in serious need for baby formula, diapers, feminine hygiene products and laundry detergent.

Common Heart

Common Heart fosters volunteer community action to focus on hunger, poverty, and upward mobility in Union county. Their mission is to help end generational poverty. They have various programs such as the Poverty Simulation and Bridges Out of Poverty Workshops.

Additionally, Common Heart Food Pantry focuses on stabilizing families living in poverty by providing a week’s worth of groceries through their Common Cupboard Relational Delivery Pantry and their mobile pantry.

How you can help

Common Heart has plenty of volunteer opportunities that can be found on their website. Kara Lopp, Community Engagement Manager, says the organization is in serious need of nonperishable and staple foods. “Our cereal and oatmeal supply are almost gone,” said Lopp. “We focused so much on Thanksgiving foods, and other things got neglected, so we need to bulk that up again.”

Common Heart also has a program called the Circle of Kindness, where donors can make a continuous donation all year. “We struggle during the first quarter of the year like many non-profits. A lot of people think to donate during the holidays, but we need help throughout the year,” said Lopp.

In addition to volunteering in-person, people can also volunteer virtually. Here are a few organizations that offer virtual volunteering opportunities.