Returning to normal: Non profits fundraising, seeking volunteers

Jerrie Whiteley
Herald Democrat
United Way of Grayson County Director of Development Katie Eubank works a table at a kickoff for the 2020 United Way campaign [courtesy photo].

The world wide pandemic forced many local nonprofits to think outside of the box when it came to fundraising and to reaching their target demographics for service.

Now that the pandemic is lifting, some of them are looking forward to going back to in person fundraisers and most are looking for volunteers.

"I love the collaboration we saw. My favorite example is the Boys and Girls Club of Denison which volunteered with their vans to to get food from Meals on Wheels to the homes of area seniors," United Way of Grayson County's CEO Stephanie Chandler said in a phone call last week.

She said she would also give a "pivot award" to Child and Family Guidance Center's Director Brenda Hayward who very quickly moved her staff of therapist to phone sessions from in person ones so they could not only keep serving their clients at the beginning of the pandemic but add to the number of people being served as the isolation caused by the pandemic began to set in on people.

"Some agencies really thrived during the pandemic with people stepping up for fundraisers," Chandler said.

Volunteers to do things like blacksmithing and other 1800 era skills are needed for Frontier Village to continue its return to normal after the pandemic (courtesy photo).

Those included no show bashes and online auctions. They also included the come and go events like the Habitators event held by Habitat for Humanity where people had the choice to have their food delivered, pick it up themselves or eat at the event. They even had the option to have food delivered to the staff at local hospitals, Chandler said, so they could support two good causes at once.

She said the United Way worked with the Grayson County Office of Emergency Management to stay on top of the most urgent needs in the county and try to get those needs addressed in the most effective way possible.

"We partnered with St. Vincent de Paul Society. They worked with us to do rent and utility assistance," Chandler said. "We gave them, just during COVID, $65,000. and we were able to do something similar with Grayson College."

At Grayson, they were able to work to set up a student emergency fund to help with rent, utilities, child care and other items.

"We saw a 91 percent student success rate that they were able to stay in school," Chandler said.

Now that things are evening out on the pandemic front, she said, more and more nonprofits are going back to traditional fundraisers and one of the things that many are in need of is volunteers.

Frontier Village Board of Directors Charla Harris said they were able to conserve costs by shutting down during parts of the pandemic. But now that they are open again, they need to have their volunteers return to do things like portray settles in the 1800s and guide visitors through the park's various exhibits. The nonprofit can't afford to pay people to fill those roles. 

United Way of Grayson County CEO Stephanie Chandler speaks to volunteers in this 2019 photo

Chandler said that need for volunteers comes as many nonprofits are still trying to either catch up from pandemic or help people contend with loses from the winter storm that tore through the area. 

One agency that is working with those affected by the storm is Habitat for Humanity in Grayson County. That organization's Executive Director Laura Mealy said they always welcome volunteers and can use them in the upcoming building of a new home but this a few weeks off just yet.

She said they are still working on storm damage repairs but most of those have been plumbing related and those things have to be contracted out to professionals. And, they are still going strong with their roof replacement program, which also often has to be contracted out to professionals. She said the organization is happy to get referrals for that program of area elderly homeowners who either need their roof repaired or replaced. 

Of course, all of the 22 programs supported by United Way, Chandler said, can use cash donations as well as volunteers to help continue their work.

Mealy said the recent increase in the cost of construction supplies makes cash even more necessary. The group would also appreciate any construction supplies people might be able to donate.

"If we can't use it on a build, we can always sell it at the Re Store," she said.

Laurie Mealy, executive director of the Grayson County Habitat for Humanity, speaks at Habi-taters Fundraiser benefitting the Habitat for Humanity of Grayson County on Jan. 26, 2019.