By Colleen Goodhue
As challenging as winter is going to be this year, we all have something that we can do to make things a little better. For some, focusing on self-care is foremost right now, but for those who have the desire and resources, there are great opportunities to give to the greater Upper Valley community.
Food shelves and community programs are reporting an increase in demand for services even as they are unable to hold essential fundraising events. What follows is a non-exhaustive guide to giving this winter, including ways to give time, stuff, and money. If you are in need, please visit Upper Valley Strong for their list of resources.
If you want to give time:
❄ Plan a toiletry drive! WISE keeps a room stocked for survivors of gender-based violence. Planning a drive with your workplace, family, or friends can help keep it stocked.
❄ For a longer term commitment, volunteer to be an after-hour crisis line advocate for WISE. Volunteers apply for and fulfill 35 hours of training to support WISE’s round-the-clock, gender-based violence advocacy work. WISE reports that "survivors are experiencing increased isolation, more challenges to accessing supports, in particular housing – which is always an issue, and exacerbated by Covid."
❄ Register to join New Hampshire Responds or On Call for Vermont. They need medical and non-medical volunteers as they coordinate emergency response which may include distributing vaccines next year.
❄ Help prepare Christmas dinner! LISTEN will be preparing 700 Christmas dinners this year and they need 35 drivers to help deliver the meals. They also need volunteers to make Christmas cookies at home and bring them to the center to be included as dessert. This is also a great opportunity for kids to volunteer by making cookies or through delivering meals with their families.
❄ Sign-up for a shift with the Upper Valley Haven. The Haven has adapted all their processes to support the community safely and they have a range of volunteer opportunities. They need people to cook meals and bake goods at home to drop off at the Haven. There are morning and afternoon shifts for volunteering at the Food Shelf creating takeout lunches and covering the reception desk. If you are interested in volunteering please reach out to Kerri Weeks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
❄ Volunteer at your local food shelf. In White River Junction, Sharing and Caring Food Pantry uses volunteers to tidy shelves, clean out trash, and check on the produce. If you enjoy cooking and baking, contact your local food shelf first to see if they need volunteers to take pantry items home and return prepared meals to the shelves. Upper Valley Strong has a great list of food shelves by town.
❄ Share your skills! The TLC Resource Center has virtual opportunities for people who want to read stories. Folks can also create webinars of arts and crafts that they enjoy and which the Center can then host on their website for families to do with their kids.
❄ Volunteer for the Upper Valley Response Team. This can include running errands for homebound community members, driving neighbors without vehicles, or other mutual aid assistance.
If you want to give things:
Donate to your local food shelf (link lists food shelves by town). For outdoor food shelves, consider items with plastic, aluminum, or paper packaging rather than glass. Some commonly needed items are:
❄ Canned proteins (tuna, chicken, peanut butter, beans) and dried beans
❄ Pasta and sauce
❄ Canned soups and stews
❄ Shelf-stable milk
❄ Cans of coffee
❄ Condiments and spices
❄ Rice and potatoes
❄ Individual snacks (PB crackers, pretzels, goldfish, animal crackers, granola bars, cereal bars, fruit cups, etc)
❄ Boxed meals (Hamburger Helper, Knorr’s, flavored grains, mac and cheese)
❄ Baking mixes (cookies/brownies, bread, etc)
❄ Baking items (flour, sugar, etc)
❄ Popcorn, Nuts, Dried fruit
❄ Meat. LISTEN noted that while the USDA brings them supplies, they have been short on meat. So consider donating packages of hamburger, chicken, hot dogs, et cetera. Make sure your local food shelf has refrigerators first of course!
❄ Gas, grocery, or VISA gift cards for WISE survivors of gender-based violence.
❄ Gift cards to Walmart and grocery stores for The Upper Valley Haven.
❄ Gas cards, Tracfone cards, and phone minute cards for the TLC Family Resource Center to easily distribute to their clients.
❄ Winter wear (new or like new for all ages) for The Upper Valley Haven and TLC Family Resource Center. TLC Family Resource Center reports that they had 50 winter jackets come in that have already been handed out!
❄ Toiletries (shampoo, dental items, deodorant and hand/foot warmers for The Upper Valley Haven.
❄ Unneeded furniture, appliances, even kitchen cabinets can go to COVER. They sell these items in the COVER store to fund home repair projects to those in need. Contact the store ( 802-296-7241 ext. 1) about picking up large items.
❄ Clothing, books, toys, furniture for LISTEN. They sell these items in their thrift shops which fund their programs.
If you want to give money:
❄ In January and February LISTEN will ramp up their Heating Helpers program, which raises money for people who need assistance paying their heating bill.
❄ Willing Hands works to reduce food waste, fight hunger and encourage healthy eating. They provide food to 80 recipient organizations in the Upper Valley. In a typical year they deliver about 500,000 pounds of food, but have already delivered about 750,000 pounds this year. In the warm weather, they have great volunteer opportunities, but this winter donations to their capital campaign will help them to continue providing perishable food items across the region.
❄ Due to the pandemic, COVER has had to reanalyze their programs that help people weatherize their homes. This year they are offering free weatherization supplies and remote instructions. Any contribution helps expand the capacity to help keep our neighbors living in safe, comfortable homes. The need for home repairs and weatherization are greater than ever. If you or someone you know could use a custom, DIY weatherization kit, call 802-296-7241 ext. 4 or email email@example.com.
❄ This year, TLC Family Resource Center doubled the number of families and individuals that they serve, but have been unable to hold their biggest fundraisers like their yearly Pride event and their fundraising dinner. Their programs include support for families of all kinds, Rural Outright, and the Center for Recovery. They are also in the midst of moving to a larger space that will have an LGBT and youth meeting spaces. On the donation page there’s information about their Building Connections fund.
❄ Any gift made to Twin Pines Housing by the end of the year will be doubled thanks to The Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation, and Peter and Jane McLaughlin. The organization develops and provides affordable housing in the Upper Valley to low- and moderate-income families, and has been supporting families throughout the pandemic with connections to unemployment benefits, utility assistance, and food access programs.
❄ WISE has their Annual Appeal in December. “Most of the revenue we receive through federal, state, and local grants is highly restrictive, so the money we receive from private individuals is incredibly helpful because we can use it where it is most needed.”
If you have additional suggestions for local giving opportunities, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Colleen Goodhue is an Upper Valley enthusiast. Formerly of West Lebanon, she is a videomaker and writer living in South Hadley, MA.