volunteer united way

This year has been tough: for those who have lost someone, for those whose own mental or physical health have suffered, for those who have been in and out of furlough, for those who have lost work, for our young people, for new families, for our older communities, for all of us.

Like everyone else, I am glad to see the end of 2020, but there have been some notable positives from this year.

In March and April there was a huge surge of interest in our Volunteer Center’s Coronavirus Action Team.

Hundreds of younger residents found themselves at home with the time and willingness to help. Our volunteer corps was able to temporarily replace the older residents who typically serve as the backbone of many volunteer initiatives.

This enabled nonprofit organizations to continue to serve the community in the safest and most effective ways possible.

Mutual aid groups, neighborhood groups and support groups sprang up overnight looking for ways to ensure those at risk in the community could stay safe. We continue to see these groups grow.

When many of our local businesses found that they were unable to host on-site volunteer projects for their employees, they sought out other ways to give back. There was new interest in donation drives, adopting families and helping to distribute holiday meals.

Truist, formerly BB&T, pivoted with its annual Lighthouse Project, turning it into a donation drive to benefit members of our community who are experiencing homelessness. In just a few weeks, they were able to collect and deliver supplies worth $7,300 for LancCo My Home.

One of the highlights of my year was the opportunity to work with nonprofit staff members throughout the county and the ability it gave me to see how open they were to being flexible and adaptive. It was so motivating to see my colleagues eager to learn new skills, working extra hours with volunteers to continue training and testing out innovative ideas.

They have been working tirelessly to ensure our friends and family are supported, but the fight is not yet over.

I hope that you will join me in celebrating the end of a difficult year, knowing that we have learned a lot about ourselves and our resiliency. We still have a journey ahead of us, but I am looking forward toward recovery for Lancaster County and another year of working together to support the community we all love so much.

Volunteer opportunities

Here are ways to get involved in Lancaster County:

• Save the date! Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service is coming up on Monday, Jan. 18. Please visit UWLanc.org/MLK

DayOfService for more details about registering a project or signing up to volunteer.

• The Lancaster County Re-Entry Coalition has a list of winter items needed for individuals coming out of prison. They are currently collecting blankets, sweatpants, gloves, sneakers and more.

If you are able to assist with any of these items, please contact Kristy Aurand at kaurand@caplanc.org or 717-299-7388, ext. 3032, for a full list and to arrange drop-off.

• ECHOS Winter Shelter in Elizabethtown is currently recruiting volunteers to be evening greeters, overnight volunteers and morning cleanup crew members.

If you are interested in helping to keep the shelter open this winter, please contact the ECHOS office at 717-361-0740 or email office@echoslancaster.org. Child abuse clearances and criminal background checks are required.

Nonprofit organizations in Lancaster County are encouraged to publish volunteer needs in this column.

For a copy of submission guidelines, or for answers to questions about volunteering in Lancaster County, contact United Way’s Volunteer Center at 717-824-8122 or email Volunteer@UWLanc.org.

Audrey Lilley is the manager of volunteerism and advocacy at United Way of Lancaster County.

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