At this time of year, mailboxes are full of solicitations for charities—and for good reason. If you’re looking to get involved locally on whatever level you can manage, we’re spotlighting below a handful of the many worthy local organizations in the Panhandle doing great work to help those in need year-round, and especially throughout the winter months.
— Located at 238 W. Washington St., in Charles Town (WV) Jefferson County Community Ministries (JCCM) began in 1982 with a covenant between six Charles Town churches to help people in need, and has grown to include nearly 50 churches. They provide a safety net with their Food Pantry and Clothing Closet, as well as limited emergency financial aid for rent, utilities, gasoline, and medicine. Life Skills classes to help clients become self-sufficient are now a requirement to receive services.
JCCM Homeless Services include assistance obtaining ID cards and relevant documents, laundry facilities, internet access, PanTran tickets, a mailing address, access to mental and physical health care, and more. Cold-weather shelter is provided from October to March on a rotating basis by several churches. And free daily dinners are hosted at several different locations.
Volunteers for the Pantry, Clothing Closet, and office and monetary donations are always needed. To donate food and clothing, and for all information, visit the above links or call 304-725-3186.
— Situated conveniently at 7311 Martinsburg Pike, Shepherdstown (WV), Good Shepherd Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers (GSIVC) was founded in 1990 to assist independently living older adult and/or disabled Jefferson County residents, regardless of income, with their non-medical needs. All services are free.
Volunteers make wellness phone calls and friendly visits and do everything from helping with household chores and cooking meals to organizing paperwork. They also mow grass, rake leaves, shovel snow, make repairs, and provide respite care to people who are, themselves, caregivers.
KC Brewster, Finance and Transportation Manager at GSIVC, reported that their biggest need is for transportation to stores, church, and medical appointments, especially around the holidays. Volunteer drivers provide transportation from Jefferson for about a 50-mile radius.
“It would help if we could enlist some volunteers willing to drive farther,” Brewster stressed. “Many of the drivers are older retired folks who do not want to drive long distances. People would often like someone to drive them to Baltimore or Washington airports around the holidays. We try to match the drivers with the clients. They often become good friends.”
Another important GSIVC service is the free loan of medical equipment such as crutches, wheelchairs, walkers, and shower chairs and benches. The items are donated by private individuals and always in demand.
“It’s especially needed in winter,” Brewster added, “because of weather-related injuries. And if you need a wheelchair, check here first before you go through Medicare.”
This holiday season, GSIVC, with help from St. Agnes Catholic Church, will be delivering wrapped Christmas presents to 30 or 40 low-income clients who may have no families. Brewster noted, “Our clients are not strangers. They are our neighbors. We’re always in need of volunteers’ time as well as donations.”
Find out more at the above links or by calling 304-876-3325
— The Animal Welfare Society (AWS) of Jefferson County, a nonprofit organization founded in 1952, is a no-kill shelter providing care and protection for homeless animals, educational programs, rabies prevention, and spay/neuter programs. Located at 22 Poor Farm Rd. (off Leetown Pike), Kearneysville (WV), AWS cares for hundreds of abandoned, neglected, abused, and unwanted animals every year, and provides adoption services. Their shelter includes a large cat room, completely modernized dog kennels, and a spacious outdoor, grassy dog play yard where all dogs can go out at once.
Bill Hurd, Director at AWS, explained that any animals that are not adopted right away are kept until they find a home, which all eventually do. Some are hosted by volunteer foster “parents” who provide rehabilitation in a nurturing home environment.
Adoption fees include all vaccinations, worm treatment, and spay/neuter, and all animals are microchipped. Cats are Feline Leukemia tested and puppies Parvo tested. The shelter has seven employees and many volunteers, but more volunteers are always needed, including for foster care.
“You can choose what you’d like to do,” said Hurd. “Some volunteers walk dogs, some clean, some do yard work. One lady just likes to pet cats.”
The greatest need at AWS is for people to help with the pets that are sent to PetValu and Petco. Hurd noted that they presently have a theme, Home for the Holidays, encouraging people to adopt now. He observed that many people get off work and kids are out of school for the holidays, making it a good time to acclimatize pets to their new homes.
People often want to bring holiday gifts for the shelter pets. Hurd asks that you check out their wish lists so that you can donate things they truly need. They do NOT give rawhide to the dogs. Volunteers must be at least 12 years old, and anyone under 18 must provide parental permission.
Find out more at the above links.
— In Berkeley County, the Berkeley County Congregational Cooperative Action Project (CCAP) was founded in 1983 by sixteen local churches to help needy residents. Help includes food, emergency rental and utility assistance, firewood, transportation, prescriptions, glasses, dental service, and work clothes. The group is staffed and administrated entirely by volunteers.
The largest portion of CCAP’s ministry is their Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry that supplied over 100,000 pounds of food in 2017. Food comes from federal programs and local food drives by scouts, churches, schools, other organizations, and individuals.
Eight-year volunteer Beverly Hosby indicated that eight people stock shelves at CCAP (336 S. Queen St., Martinsburg, WV) on Mondays. The boxes contain food for basic meals, based on the number of people in client families. A household can get emergency food up to eight times a year.
“We had a hundred new clients this month,” she said, adding that people who do not qualify for food boxes are given a list of local churches that each provide free meals one day a week. “So nobody needs to go hungry.”
CCAP can always use volunteers to unload trucks, stock shelves, work in the office, and interview clients. Find out more at the above links or by calling 304-263-3940.
— The Martinsburg office of the Children’s Home Society (CHS) of West Virginia has served the Eastern Panhandle for over 30 years. Their mission is to promote the well-being of children.
Located at 653 Winchester Ave., Martinsburg (WV), CHS has seven basic programs including Foster Care Services, Adoption Services, and the WE CAN Mentoring Program that matches volunteer mentors with at-risk children.
Safe Haven Child Advocacy Center is a multidisciplinary team investigating and treating child abuse. Shelter Care offers short-time and emergency care for youth in crisis. Youth Services has intervention programs to prevent at-risk children from ending up in the juvenile justice system. Safe at Home Wraparound Services offers support, including therapy for families with children with behavioral health needs.
Victoria Slater-Madert, Regional Director, reported that volunteers are a vital part of CHS programs. “We need volunteer mentors who will commit to spend time with kids. We also need volunteers for bi-weekly reading groups and to provide child care when parents are in foster parent support group meetings.”
CHS is operating a holiday gift-wrapping service in two locations as a fundraiser, daily through December 24 in Martinsburg on Foxcroft Avenue behind Daily Grind, and weekends in Ranson in The Marketplace at Potomac Towne Center (Kohl’s shopping center).
“We’ll use volunteers through the holiday season at both locations,” said Slater-Madert. “Bring your gifts and they will wrap them.”
Corporate partners will be helping CHS with a Little Red Stocking Fund. Businesses will ask customers to support kids by donating $1 and writing their name on a Little Red Stocking to hang on the business’ wall. At the end of the campaign, proceeds will be collected. Watch for the Little Red Stockings when you shop.
Find out more by visiting the above links or by calling 304-264-0225, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to volunteer for gift wrapping.By Claire Stuart