It may be difficult to gather in person, but supporting the community is especially important now, according to United Way’s leader.
“I’ve been amazed at how the community came together throughout this entire time with COVID,” Jessica Dudley, president and chief professional officer of United Way, said. “As we try to resume some type of normalcy, I think it’s time to remember our nonprofit partners also.”
United Way of Hall County is calling upon people to do just that during the Week of Caring, which lasts until Friday, Sept. 18.
Dudley said gathering people to volunteer has proved difficult during the pandemic, so the organization looked for both in-person and virtual ways to launch its annual fundraising campaign.
“Normally we’d have a big kickoff with a breakfast or lunch, community speakers and awards, but this year looks different,” Dudley said. “We decided to do a Week of Caring, so we can connect the community back to organizations who are still helping.”
By signing up at unitedwayhallcounty.org/weekofcaring, people can select from a list of volunteer opportunities at local nonprofits, like organizing shelves for The Salvation Army, hauling off furniture and trash from Center Point’s South Hall office or making cloth masks at United Way.
Participants also can help from the comfort of their homes by donating to their choice of nine different United Way partners, including Hall County Schools, Straight Street Ministry and Gateway Domestic Violence Center. The Amazon wish list links can be found at United Way’s website
Throughout the week, United Way will highlight on its social media channels different ways people can give back. On Monday, Sept. 14, participants were encouraged to purchase an item from a nonprofit’s Amazon wish list, and on Tuesday, Sept. 15, people were asked to write a letter of support to someone in need.
Upcoming at-home recommendations for Week of Caring:
Wednesday, Sept. 16: Donate gift cards or sign up to sponsor a Christmas wish list for Hall foster children with Hall is Home. For more information, visit hallishomeforkids.com.
Thursday, Sept. 17: Share books with the community by stocking Little Libraries around Hall County. Visit, littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap, to view the area’s Little Library locations.
Friday, Sept. 18: Become an advocate for United Way and help better the lives of children and families in Hall. To become a corporate partner, visit unitedwayhallcounty.org/sponsors.
United Way’s fundraising campaign will run until April 30, 2021. Dudley said all the money donated goes back into the organization’s services, including its COVID-19 Relief Fund and grants for local nonprofits that address issues of health, financial stability or education. Last year, she said United Way raised $1.4 million. To make a donation, visit United Way’s website.
Volunteers answering the call
When the Week of Caring kicked off Monday, Dudley said people were quick to respond and volunteer.
Ladies from First Presbyterian Church Gainesville and Wisdom Project 2030 Inc. gathered inside United Way — while socially distanced — to put together mask kits on Tuesday.
Dudley said mask-makers, especially those who can sew, are in dire need at United Way. The nonprofit sends the finished face coverings to churches, COVID-19 testing sites and families in both Gainesville and Hall school systems.
Jean Carmack, member of First Presbyterian Church Gainesville, said she started sewing masks for the Northeast Georgia Health System in March. When she heard United Way needed extra hands, she answered the call.
“There’s such a need for it,” she said. “I get just the joy of being able to help other people.”
Tracy Lees-Grant, who helped cut out masks on Tuesday, explained that any amount of help people can give, whether during the Week of Caring or beyond, will make a “huge difference.”
“I think even doing something like this, even if you don’t sew, you can cut,” she said while inspecting a piece of fabric.
Julie Ferguson, who was recently named United Way’s Volunteer of the Year for 2019-2020, said the nonprofit excels at assessing the needs of the community and finding the right people to address those needs.
“It (United Way) has been high on my list for over 30 years,” she said. “It’s been wonderful to have people that are engaged and trying to help with this effort.”
Lees-Grant said Ferguson is responsible for bringing together both the First Presbyterian Church and Wisdom Project 2030 to help make masks at United Way. Although they volunteered during the Week of Caring, the group plans to continue lending their help in the months to come.
“I encourage folks to give back to the community ongoing, not just this week,” Dudley said. “Bringing folks together I think it what we do best at United Way. Each of us can’t do it alone, so when we all come together, that’s when the most good happens.”
Nonprofits and other partners seeking support during the Week of Caring:
The Salvation Army
Good News Clinics
Children’s Center for Hope and Healing
Straight Street Ministry
Community Service Center
Boys and Girls Clubs of Lanier
Family Promise of Hall County
Hall is Home
Hall County Schools
Interactive Neighborhood for Kids
Gainesville Housing Authority
Caring Hands Ministry
United Way of Hall County
Caring Hands Ministry
Gateway Domestic Violence Center
Sisu Integrated Early Learning