Local nonprofits seek help this holiday season

Brionna Dallara, Associate A&C Editor

Those that are in town for the holidays and are looking to get in the giving spirit can give back to the community through local volunteer work and donations. 


Hunger and Health Coalition is located off Health Center Drive in Boone and operates a walking distance away from the Hospitality House. Both of these nonprofits are welcoming volunteers to give back to families in need during this time of the season.  


Kayla Lasure is the volunteer intern coordinator as well as the Simple Gesture program coordinator at Hunger and Health Coalition. Lasure oversees the volunteers at Hunger and Health and helps with the Simple Gesture programs that she said makes it as easy as possible for people to provide donations for their facility. 


Lasure said that a lot of their volunteers come from the universities and when students leave for break they lose a lot of their volunteer base. She said those wishing to volunteer can email her at volunteeringhhc@gmail.com or visit their website where individuals wanting to help can sign up to volunteer. Hunger and Health operates Monday through Friday and receives donations from local grocery stores and restaurants, along with community members who donate through their Simple Gestures program.  


“A Simple Gesture is our way of making it as easy as possible for people to donate to us,” Lasure said. 


She said those involved will receive a green reusable bag that they have two months to fill up with pantry items. There are a total of six pick-ups for these bags per year and volunteers will even drive to those donating houses or on campus if people are unable to drop off their bags. The last pickup of the year was on Dec. 3 and the pick-up dates for 2023 will be released soon. 


Additionally, locals and students experiencing food insufficiency can visit Hunger and Health and will be guaranteed food that day after answering a couple questions, no proof or documentation needed. Hunger and Health will be closed Christmas day, Dec. 23, Dec. 26 and Jan. 2. 


Lasure said they tend to see an influx of people around the holiday season, especially as it gets colder.  


“A lot of our clients may need things like firewood. We allow our clients to get a truckload of firewood,” Lasure said. “Right now it’s every 30 days but that number may change.” 


According to Lasure, the best way to know when to volunteer is for people to reach out to her via email and list the times and dates they are able to volunteer, that way they can align schedules and figure out a date that works best.  


“We would not be able to do what we do without volunteers,” said Lasure. “We have a great group of staff here, but we still need volunteer help in order to carry out the mission that we have.”  


Volunteers can also visit the neighboring non-profit Hospitality House. 


The Hospitality House is located at 338 Brook Hollow Road and always accepts donations. Shelter associates Elizabeth Kurtz and Sean Morris said that they currently need “winter wear” donations; coats, sweaters, gloves, etc. and could use first aid supplies and medicines like Advil. 


Morris said anyone can drop off donations at any time at the Hospitality House and recommends calling beforehand when dropping off. 


WAMY Community Action program is another social service organization located off Birch Street in Boone and is seeking additional help during the holidays. The program’s acronym stands for Watuaga, Avery, Mitchell and Yancey, all of the counties it assists.  


Allison Jennings is the director of development at WAMY and does community outreach and marketing. She said that she is currently working on their annual holiday project Santa for Seniors and has connected with different businesses and individuals who want to support the project. 

Brionna Dallara


Santa for Seniors program is a gift drive for senior citizens in hospice care that has taken place for the past five years. Jennings said that they serve four neighboring counties with this one project. Last year she said they served about 950 individuals, and it’s predicted they’re going to hit close to 1,100 this year. 

“Everyone wants to buy toys for kids, and that’s a wonderful thing,” Jennings said. “But sometimes our elderly neighbors just kind of get overlooked.” 


The Santa for Seniors drive accepted items from lip balm to puzzle books and collected drop-off items Monday through Thursday, Dec. 15. Jennings said they will be packing and organizing stuff at the office on Monday and will make sure any donations up to that point are homebound. On Friday volunteers will be packaging items for Watauga County. Neighboring counties staff and board members are also organizing dates for volunteers to help. 


“If there are people who want to show up at 10 a.m. Friday, the 16th to help us sort and pack and count. We would love to have them,” Jennings said. 


There are additional opportunities for volunteers, or anyone wishing to help, to donate whatever they can afford. Each bag for the program is priced at about $20, but Jennings said every donation counts and no gift is too big or small. 


Along with their seasonal donations, WAMY has supported over 1,600 families this past year with their Total Family Development Program and is always accepting calls from those who wish to “adopt a family” and help alleviate expenses on gas, childcare, etc , said Jennings. 


Located in the same building on Birch Street is the non-profit Oasis, whosetheir mission is to help survivors of domestic abuse.   


Sara Crouch, director of community programs, said the best way people can support the nonprofit this holiday season is with gift cards to Walmart or other places for their clients to buy presents for loved ones. She also said that it’s important to spread the word about Oasis services as the holiday season can increase violence rates in abusive relationships. 


“Additionally, if folks are interested in bringing our advocates who work to provide 24/7 services some holiday treats, they are always appreciated,” Crouch said. 


Further donation opportunities and gift drop-offs are available at the Children’s Council of Watauga County. 


Matthew Powell is the resource specialists at the Children’s Council and said they just celebrated their annual client Christmas party Dec. 9 and provided dinner gift bags and other activities for the families involved in their home visiting programs, as well as, gifts for volunteers and interns. 


Powell said that diapers, wipes and other hygiene products are always in high demand and accepted anytime as donations. The location to drop-off is located at 225 Birch St., and those wishing to donate can reach out to Powell via his email matt@thechildrenscouncil.org for drop-off times. 


New volunteers are also always welcomed at other nonprofits like FARM Cafe to serve the community. FARM Cafe will be open Dec. 20-22 and then will be closed until Jan. 3. Volunteers can come between the times 9:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. to help or fill out a volunteer application form online. 


Volunteer Coordinator Abby Huggins at FARM Cafe said volunteers can come for just an hour or even all day. Huggins said there are less student volunteers when there’s a break and they love and welcome new and old volunteers.