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Rowan Helping Ministries offers an option for New Year’s resolutions

SALISBURY — According to a recent YouGov poll, the most popular New Year’s resolutions for 2018 are those we’ve heard before.

Eating healthier, exercising more, and spending less money are the top three on the list.

For those with resolutions closer to the bottom of YouGov’s top 10 — making new friends and finding a hobby — a local organization is proposing a solution: volunteer.

Rowan Helping Ministries, which provides emergency shelter, food and crisis-intervention services, is seeking volunteers for numerous programs.

The organization’s crisis assistance center requires about 200 volunteers weekly for operations to run smoothly. The shelter requires 25 or more daily.

The need for volunteers became increasingly apparent during the holiday season when a scheduled group was unable to serve Christmas lunch.

The Christmas cancellation followed six other meal-prep cancellations over the past two months. Executive Director Kyna Grubb said last-minute cancellations can cause unnecessary struggle.

“I don’t know that volunteers realize how much we appreciate them and how much we need them,” said Grubb. Many staff members have “cried when volunteers have not shown up, because it’s … ‘How do we serve the people standing out in the line because we were counting on somebody?’ ”

Erica Taylor, public relations manager, said the Christmas cancellation was particularly hard given the day.

“Christmas is supposed to be the most important time of being together and giving,” she said. “People are just coming to get a hot meal, so they aren’t asking for much.”

Brynn Smith and Lynsey Horn, volunteer coordinators for the shelter and crisis assistance, respectively, said a substitute team of four came in to cook and serve the Christmas meal.

Ideally, Smith said, the organization would like five to 10 volunteers per meal.

“It worked, but it’s a process to cover,” said Horn.

Volunteer opportunities

While many associate Rowan Helping Ministries as being “just” a soup kitchen or “just” a food pantry, the ministry has a variety of opportunities for volunteers.

“If there’s something you like to do, we can find a place for you,” Smith said.

Volunteer opportunities include:

  • Meal preparation and serving for the kitchen.
  • USDA distribution packing.
  • Food for Thought (school backpack program).
  • Reception desk.
  • Laundry.

For the crisis assistance center, opportunities include:

  • Food pantry (packing and assisting clients).
  • Clothing center (sorting and assisting clients).
  • Reception.
  • Interviewing (to determine eligibility for Rowan Helping Ministries assistance).
  • Food appointments (scheduling client appointments for assistance).
  • Second Helping drivers (picking up donated food from local grocery stores and restaurants).
  • Loading dock volunteers.
  • Life coaching (one-on-one coaching to help clients beyond times of crisis).
  • New Tomorrows (classes on life skills, work skills and financial management).

How to volunteer

Volunteer training sessions are held at 3 p.m. each Tuesday at 226 N. Long St. Training is required, and ministry staff stress the importance of scheduling a time to volunteer.

To work in the kitchen, volunteers must be at least 10 years old. Shelter volunteers after 5 p.m. — for dinner and laundry — must be older than 18, and most crisis assistance volunteers must be 13 to volunteer with an adult or 15 to volunteer without an adult.

There are specific volunteer days for students needing less than 10 hours of community service credit.

Volunteer impact

In 2016, Rowan Helping Ministries volunteers contributed about 60,000 volunteer hours, valued at $1.2 million.

The dollar value, Grubb said, is proof of what the ministry is able to do through the help of volunteers.

She cited an example of paying a staff member $300 to cover a volunteer shift. That $300 could be used to keep a family in its home or stock the kitchen with supplies, said Grubb.

“I’ve developed a lot of relationships with volunteers,” said Smith. “I think, ‘Oh, I can’t remember anybody’s name.’ Well, I remember everybody’s name now. Because of what they’re giving to us, I can’t forget their names.”

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