With the start of a new year comes new opportunities to uplift and lend a helping hand in your community. Wheeling is rich with volunteer programs that are suitable for just about everyone. While Wheeling is on the rise, a large part of the Ohio Valley’s positive change is owed to its people. The community has never turned down an opportunity to plant flowers in Downtown Wheeling, pick up trash in public areas or donate food and clothing to those in need.
Lori Jones, Executive Director of the YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Associates), agrees that Wheeling has always been committed to putting on a pair of work boots when needed.
“The Wheeling community has always stepped up to help. “The YWCA Wheeling is a conduit to assist the community (and) we can’t do it,” said Jones.
While the YWCA has been a staple in the Wheeling community for 114 years, Jones says their mission is very forward thinking and important for the city’s future.
“The YWCA Wheeling is on a mission to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all,” said Jones.
With these key points being the front running goals of the YWCA, it has truly created a positive ripple effect in the community with the programs they provide.
“The YWCA Wheeling offers assistance to women, children and men who have been victims of crimes. We assist the city with offering safe shelter to their community members and the opportunity to live safe, healthy and productive lives. All of the programs of the YWCA offer a fresh start or an opportunity to start fresh. We offer support and teach tools to achieve goals,” said Jones.
Programs provided by and/or are branches of the YWCA include the Greater Wheeling Coalition for the Homeless, YWCA Cultural Diversity and Community Outreach (CDCO), the YWCA WIND Program, YWCA FVPP (Family Violence Prevention Program), YWCA STEP (Survivors of Trafficking Empowerment Program, YWCA Boutique), the Y Not Repeat Boutique and the Youth Empowerment Program.
The YWCA also provides court advocates, relationship advocates and a 24-hour crisis hotline.
While these programs are thriving, they could always use a helping hand from a neighbor. That’s you!
“The YWCA Wheeling can always use food, cleaning supplies, towels, sheets, pillows, laundry detergent and personal care items, silverware. We do have a wishlist on Amazon (as well),” said Jones.
“There are volunteer opportunities with each program, as well as advisory councils and Board of Directors. Just call. We will talk about your areas of interest, our current needs, health limitations and we can figure out the best partnership.”
With COVID-19 putting a halt on many tasks and general assistance, Jones does want to show her appreciation for all that the city of Wheeling has done for and alongside the YWCA.
“We thank you for your past help, your current help and the help yet to come. We are partners serving the Ohio Valley.”
United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley
The United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley provides a wealth of information in terms of how to best utilize Wheeling’s strengths. Primarily, The United Way helps individuals and businesses take those first steps into volunteering, especially when they are unsure of where to start.
“We promote giving in the upper Ohio Valley and help get folks involved in nonprofit organization volunteering,” said Jessice Rine, Executive Director of the United Way.
“We are also the community’s giving plan and we help companies and individuals that want to give, but aren’t sure where the biggest needs are in the community.”
Though the pandemic may have caused people to stay home, the community is still seeing a decent turn out in terms of volunteers.
“We are actually seeing an increase in requests for safe ways to volunteer. This pandemic exposed a lot of the financial insecurities in community members and also highlighted the tough work nonprofit organizations do to help those in need,” said Rine.
“We need to cultivate new relationships with potential community partners, so we are looking for volunteers for our committees. We also help with providing volunteers to our member agencies.”
Many positions need filled at the United Way and there is something that is suitable for everyone, according to Rine.
Consider how you would like to make an impact. When people think of volunteering, many times they think of manual labor. While those projects exist, and we are happy to connect folks to those projects as well, board members and committee members are volunteering their time, support, guidance and ideas. Those assets can serve even more valuable than typical volunteer projects,” said Rine.
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“We believe the best way to get involved in your community is to join a nonprofit board or committee and we can help with that. We will get on a call and talk about your personal/professional interests and interested level of involvement to find out where you can make the most impact.”
Rine also wants volunteers to know that they are doing more than just helping others. Helping your neighbors means you are helping your community. It all comes full circle and it encourages others to get involved.
“When a person gives their time or money to a nonprofit organization, they feel more connected to their community. So, at the United Way, we encourage that type of giving to grow that sense of community in the Ohio Valley. We also consult with businesses and individuals to make it affordable for individuals and companies to give at all levels so that they can make an impact on the community regardless of their financial position.”
Have you ever driven through Centre Market and admired how pristine it appears? Well, that is in part thanks to Volunteer Wheeling’s efforts.
“Volunteer Wheeling is an organization that calls upon area residents to participate in group projects, such as litter cleanups, curb painting and streetscape beautification initiatives,” said Ellen Gano, Volunteer Wheeling Organizer.
“We are playing our part in revitalizing Wheeling. Whether we are collecting trash along Wheeling Creek or planting flowers down at Heritage Port, our efforts help to improve Wheeling’s appearance to its residents and visitors.”
With the coronavirus still lingering, Volunteer Wheeling has taken steps to keep their efforts safe for all involved.
“We are fortunate that most of our work is done outside and we can socially distance while doing it. We do, however, wear masks as well. The number of volunteers who show up at our events has likely been reduced, as some have chosen to put a hold on their involvement due to COVID-19,” said Gano.
While the number of volunteers for the organization may have reduced, it has not slowed down Volunteer Wheeling’s progress, according to Gano.
“As a group, we have quickly discovered that a small amount of effort can result in impressive results! Especially given that we generally get together for less than two hours per week. It makes it very easy for volunteers to commit to helping out without taking up too much time from their busy schedules,” said Gano.
“It would be great if more people adopted the approach of helping Wheeling out in this way and joined Volunteer Wheeling. We’ve had friends who have chosen to volunteer to clean up trash along Wheeling Creek with us instead of meeting for coffee. We have adults who have brought their kids/grandkids to help out to give them a taste of volunteering and to engage them in a simple active outdoor activity and all of Wheeling benefits.”
According to Gano, volunteers are always welcome and needed at Volunteer Wheeling. Particularly, volunteers in possession of a craft.
“Depending upon the project at hand, we can benefit from the support of volunteers with particular skill sets and through product donations relevant to a particular project. An example of what I’m meaning here is the work our group did on cleaning up the concrete planters at Centre Market,” said Gano.
“We reached out to get expertise on how best to clean, treat and paint/stain the planters and we acquired donations of spray washers, concrete stain/sealing products and, ultimately plants to plant in the planters.”
While handiness is a great addition, Gano wants potential volunteers to know that anyone is welcome to take part in the revitalization of Wheeling.
“Primarily, we need volunteers. Our contribution can do its part to leave a more positive impression on those who are considering Wheeling as a place to live or to start a business,” said Gano.
Whether you’re more drawn in by getting your hands a bit dirty or sitting down with the board of directors, your thoughts and helpfulness are wanted and necessary. Take part in the growth of Wheeling today. After all, it is home, sweet home.
What are you waiting for? Get started by connecting with one of these organizations:
Visit their Facebook page and send them a message to join their mailing list.
• With a background in journalism and being a true Wheeling native, Jessica Broverman was destined to work with Weelunk. She holds a degree in journalism with a minor in criminal justice and works with Williams Lea Tag as a legal proofreader. When she isn’t typing away for Weelunk or WLT, she is enjoying a coffee at one of her many favorite spots in Wheeling, spending time with friends, or having fun with her husband Zachary and their two cats, Proctor and Max.