Local Non-Profits Welcome Donations, Time and Support
We are all too familiar with how challenging 2020 has been. If you’ve got your health, a job, a roof over your head, and food on the table, you may be feeling especially thankful this year. What better way to express gratitude than to give back to our own community?
Here, Roanoke Valley HOME magazine would like to share some of the many hardworking organizations in town that focus on something near and dear to our heart: housing and food assistance. If you are looking for opportunities to give this season, here are just a few local nonprofits who would love to hear from you.
THERE ARE SO MANY WAYS TO SUPPORT OUR NEIGHBORS WHO ARE HOME- AND FOOD-INSECURE. WE HOPE THAT THIS LIST WILL INSPIRE YOU TO REACH OUT AND HELP SOMEONE, THIS SEASON AND IN THE NEW YEAR AHEAD.
TAP (Total Action for Progress)
Total Action for Progress (TAP) is one of the largest community action agencies in Virginia, with over 300 employees working to help those in need. “We’re different from most nonprofits in that we have such a multi-focus operation,” says Sarah Reid, marketing coordinator. In addition to helping people at risk of homelessness and losing their homes, Reid says TAP can provide assistance for first-time home buyers and homeowners in need of basic features and repair, including roof leaks, weatherization, and plumbing. They can connect clients with zero-cost loans to repair failed septic systems, and they also have a real estate development program to help provide affordable housing and revitalize neighborhoods.
“Our hotline calls for assistance have increased dramatically since April of this year,” says President and CEO Annette Lewis. Goals for transitional housing, meals, groceries, and other family services were all surpassed by August 2020, and Lewis says community support has been vital to their operations in this, their 55th year.
Donations can be made via their website, and as part of the Virginia Neighborhood Assistance Program, donors can receive a 65 percent tax credit against their state income tax. TAP also has opportunities to donate books and vehicles, and to volunteer in a variety of programs.
“We have received thousands of face masks for our clients due to the generosity of churches, businesses and individuals,” says Lewis. “Donations from individuals, companies and board members demonstrate that people care about others and are willing to partner with TAP as we help bring hope to those who have lost hope and seek a self-supporting way of life.” tapintohope.org; 540-777-HOPE
Feeding Southwest Virginia
“We had an initial shock to our system in March, where we only had two weeks’ supply of food when the pandemic hit,” says Lisa Uhl, director of marketing and communications. “It was a real emergency, but the community came through, and grants allowed us to purchase food.”
The pandemic required Feeding Southwest Virginia to revamp their food distribution program, and social distancing requirements meant that a lot of volunteers were lost early on. In addition to running their food bank, the agency operates a “Cafe To Grow” mobile food truck which provides meals and snacks for school children at various locations around the city.
Uhl says they’re anticipating even higher need in the months to come, and have implemented comprehensive pandemic safety procedures. “We could really use volunteers, especially in the holiday season,’ she says. “You could give your time, a donation, or food.”
Financial donations can be made via their website, and food donations can be accepted at their Salem distribution center. They are always looking for shelf-stable items such as peanut butter, canned proteins, soups and vegetables. “If it’s a small donation, we have a box outside of our Salem distribution center. If it’s a neighborhood or office food drive, call us and we can unload it for you at the loading dock.”
While gearing up for increased demand in the days ahead, Uhl is grateful for the help they’ve already been given. “We want to thank everyone for the support we’ve received during COVID-19,” she says. “A lot of companies and individuals and nonprofits are working together to help our neighbors.” feedingswva.org; 540-342-3011
Habitat for Humanity in the Roanoke Valley
The Roanoke chapter of this global nonprofit, which builds and rehabilitates homes for community members in need, has several areas that could use your help. “We would love for people to volunteer at or donate items to our Habitat ReStore,” says executive director Karen Mason. “And we are always looking for groups to come out on our builds. Churches, businesses … we have a day sponsor program in need of groups and sponsors.”
Niki Voudren, director of resource development, echoes this sentiment. “We welcome construction volunteers and community sponsors,” she says. “With over 92 cents of every dollar going directly to construction costs and family services program expenses, donors can rest assured that their donations will directly support our efforts to provide homes for our neighbors in need of decent affordable housing right here in the Roanoke Valley.” Donations can be made and volunteers can sign up through the local Habitat for Humanity website. Voudren says that people can also help by shopping at and donating to the Habitat ReStore. She notes that the store is particularly looking for appliances, doors and windows.
“This holiday season while you’re in your warm, safe home decorating the tree and hanging lights with friends and family, please don’t forget about the underserved, vulnerable families in our community who are working toward their goal of a Habitat home where they can make memories, grow and thrive,” says Voudren. habitat-roanoke.org; 540-344-0747
LEAP (Local Environmental Agriculture Project)
“Our mission is to nurture healthy communities and local healthy food systems,” says director of programs and operations Sam Lev. “We work to connect the dots between local farms and food producers and Roanoke Valley consumers. We’re really trying to ensure that good, healthy food is accessible and affordable throughout our community.”
LEAP runs the Grandin Village and West End farmers markets, in addition to a mobile market that brings fresh food to neighborhoods and seniors without good access to produce. They partner with multiple healthy food incentive programs, including SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), Medicaid Match, Fresh Foods Rx, Healthy Start Collaborative, CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) and a Senior Incentive Program that works with certain senior living facilities.
Thanks to various local partnership programs and grants, LEAP is often able to increase or double the buying power for shoppers who might not ordinarily buy at farmers markets. “If you receive benefits such as SNAP EBT [Electronic Benefits Program], Medicaid, or WIC, for every dollar you spend we can give you an additional dollar,” explains Lev.
To support these initiatives, LEAP’s website has a PayPal donate button and gratefully accepts checks as well. Though produce and farmers markets are seasonal, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscriptions begin enrolling in January, and Lev says, “We have year-round options, and there’s always something that people are able to purchase or invest in.” leapforlocalfood.org; 540-632-1360
Presbyterian Community Center
“We are a social service agency that provides aid for low-income families who need help,” says executive director Karen McNally. “Rent, utilities, non-narcotic medication, even a tank of gas. Anything that keeps them from becoming homeless.”
McNally says they receive referrals from many services throughout town, and that they informally “split up” the city with Roanoke Area Ministries. “They take the west side, we take the east side—people who live in northeast and southeast city, eastern Roanoke County, and Vinton.”
The center also runs a food pantry and Pathways for Youth, an after-school program whose offerings include tutoring, enrichment, and community service opportunities.
“We’d appreciate anyone who’d like to do food collection for us,” says McNally. She says that nonperishable items such as canned meats, breakfast cereal, oatmeal, pancake mix and syrup are always in demand. Additionally, school supplies and warm coats are appreciated. The center asks that people call to schedule a drop-off time.
And of course, they are grateful for financial donations, which can be made via check or directly on their website. McNally says that once eviction and cutoff notices resume, “We foresee an avalanche of requests for help with rent and utilities.” pccse.org; 540-982-2911
RAM House (Roanoke Area Ministries)
Roanoke Area Ministries is an interfaith nonprofit which began in 1971 and provides a variety of services, including the largest day shelter in Roanoke, meals, a clothes closet, a day labor program, and emergency financial assistance.
“Last year we helped over 1,500 people who were homeless, and have given over $200,000 in financial aid to families and individuals,” says Molly Archer, marketing director. “We do a lot with very little, and are primarily donor-funded. Our administrative costs are very low, at 17 percent.”
Archer says that COVID-19 has changed the local landscape significantly, and that even with eviction moratorium mandates in place, RAM expects that homelessness will rise and more people will need help with rent. “A lot of people—people from all different walks of life, who have never been in this situation before—are coming in and asking for help,” she says.
RAM’s website has a donation page with several easy options. The Needs List shows which items are most in demand. There are links to Kroger and Amazon programs that donate a portion of your purchases to RAM. And there’s an option to make a one-time or recurring donation. “Even five or ten dollars a month is really helpful,” Archer says. raminc.org; 540-981-1732
Family Promise of Greater Roanoke
“We provide shelter and meals for families with children in the Roanoke Valley,” says Marie Muddiman, executive director. Family Promise relies on a network of faith communities and volunteers who partner to offer assistance with housing, meals, employment, education, and child care for families in need. They can support four families at a time, and their goal is to develop a comprehensive plan to help get them back on their feet and into permanent housing.
“We do intensive case management that addresses both physical and emotional needs,” says Muddiman. “We look at what may have caused this incidence of homelessness and tailor the program so that they can lead a self-sufficient life. Once they have housing, we also provide case management as they move forward.” Applicants must be sober and have no violent criminal history.
Families in the program often stay on a temporary week-long basis with local congregations until better accommodations can be found. Congregations frequently partner to provide shelter in a Sunday school room, meals, and volunteers who stay with them.
“They have help getting up and getting the kids to school, and parents to work or back to the Family Center to look for jobs,” Muddiman explains. The center, Family Promise’s home base, offers families a place to keep some belongings, receive mail, and use kitchen and laundry facilities. It’s also where they can access computers and work with case managers.
“We would love to have more congregations be involved—it’s one of our biggest needs,” says Muddiman. Though the organization owns a duplex where families who have struggled to obtain housing can stay for up to six months, COVID-19 has decreased available shelter options within the community, and they are seeking more housing options. “We have a continuous capital campaign to try and own more property,” says Muddiman. familypromiseroanoke.org; 540-444-7374
Commonwealth Catholic Charities
The Roanoke branch of Commonwealth Catholic Charities (CCC) offers a variety of human services to vulnerable people, regardless of faith. Those in need can receive assistance with housing, refugee resettlement, workforce development, and other necessities. CCC also runs St. Francis House Food Pantry, which is stocked by Feeding Southwest Virginia and supplemented by donations from local parishes, business and individuals.
“Commonwealth Catholic Charities has served in the Roanoke Valley since 1967 and is committed to feeding the hungry,” says marketing manager Katie Dillon. “Through St. Francis House Food Pantry, we help thousands of individuals and families each year.”
CCC’s website has a link for monetary donations and also links to several Amazon wish lists which will send supplies directly to their office. St. Francis House also accepts food donations such as canned meat, fruits and vegetables, and instant meals such as rice and noodles. Other needed items include soap and cleaning supplies. “We ask that donors please call ahead to schedule an appointment so that our staff is available to assist. At this time, we are only accepting new items for health and safety reasons,” Dillon says. cccofva.org; 540-342-0411. St. Francis House Food Pantry, 836 Campbell Ave SW, 540-268-0044 ✦
Commonwealth Catholic Charities, Feeding Southwest Virginia, FOOD-INSECURE, Habitat for Humanity, HOME-INSECURE, housing and food assistance, LEAP (Local Environmental Agriculture Project), nonprofits, Presbyterian Community Center, RAM House (Roanoke Area Ministries), TAP (Total Action for Progress)