Year of community impact planned at United Way

It seems like not too long ago that at the United Way we planned one event per year: Day of Caring. That was a great event, where we connected folks to various agencies to go out and in one big day of service help with painting walls, digging gardens, cleaning up basements, etc. Hard to believe, but the United Way Day of Caring lasted a full 25 years, and over those years, thousands of people got connected to dozens of agencies. However, as the saying goes, all things must change. So a few years back, we decided that there is a more effective way to connect volunteers to the needs of the various agencies in our community, and that’s when www.VolunteerGreaterNashua.org was born. This website, a collaboration with The Telegraph, is a place where people from the community can search through the volunteer needs of different organizations (there are currently 35 different organizations on the site, and it’s growing) and select one of their needs to volunteer (there are currently 44 different volunteering needs identified.) Did you know that the Hunt Community is looking for a meditation group facilitator? Did you know that Sinfonietta Strings is looking for a newsletter editor? How about homework help at 21st Century or Nashua PAL? How about coaching a Lego robotics team at the Boys & Girls Club? All of these, and more, are posted by our community nonprofits, and you can simply go in and sign up. To us at United Way, that seems like a more effective way to encourage volunteerism throughout the community than the simple one-day-a-year one-off. By the way, the service is free to any local nonprofit and easy to use.

At the same time, there are some specific places in which we also wanted to create opportunities for people to make a difference in one or more of the impact areas of United Way. Our focus on food security, early childhood success, housing security and senior care are areas where we decided to create community volunteering events where people can make a difference. We just recently completed our annual calendar and have put it up on our website at www.unitedwaynashua.org/events/ for you to look at. In order to continue addressing food security, we have two food packaging events (one in March and one in June), along with a community farming event in April with Grow Nashua at Dr. Crisp Elementary. In order to continue addressing early childhood success, we will have our 3rd annual Community Baby Shower at Nashua Community College in May. Continuing our focus on housing security will be our 4th annual United We Sleep Event in September. Our 4th annual Shoebox Project will take place in the fall, with a focus on senior health and safety. We’ve also planned Over the Edge 2019 for June, again at the Brady Sullivan Tower in Manchester, and this year benefitting at least 23 different nonprofits in the community. Of course, this ambitious agenda requires thousands of volunteer hours, and we are hoping to see many of you there, packaging food, digging in the dirt, sorting strollers and car seats, rappelling off buildings, delivering care packages and sleeping with us in our boxes in the rain. Hopefully, one, if not many of these, will appeal to you. All are family friendly ways to get involved with making a difference.

For starters, why not join us in March at Alvirne High School as we package 10,000 meals for the food pantries of our community. This year, we will be packaging 5,000 meals of hearty minestrone soup and 5,000 meals of apple cinnamon oatmeal. These meals are more nutritious than their store-bought counterparts, with additional supplements of protein and vitamins. And they are generally easily prepared with only one or at most two ingredients needed (one of which is water). While we realize that our food pantries rely on much more food than these meals, they help to ensure that no person is turned away empty handed. We are particularly excited that these meals are now also being used as a staple in the End 68 Hours of Hunger Program, which works toward weekend food security for the low-income children in our community. If you miss the event at Alvirne in March, no worries, we’ll be repeating the event in June in Milford at SHARE for another 10,000 meals.

I would like to also take the opportunity to thank our many great sponsors who step up each year to make our Days of Caring a success. This year, a big shout out to Southern New Hampshire Health, Enterprise Bank, People’s United Bank and Anheuser-Busch for becoming our Community Superhero Sponsors. Their sponsorships directly pay for the expenses … wood, dirt, food supplies, etc., that make these events possible. More information about our other Day of Caring sponsors will be available on our website and Facebook pages, and there is always room for more, if you would like to help us to make a difference through these impactful volunteer events.

We are looking forward to a fantastic early spring, thanks to the predictions of the groundhog, and can’t wait to get started by having you join us at one of our Days of Caring, because Great Things Happen When We LIVE

UNITED.

Mike Apfelberg is president of United Way of Greater Nashua.

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