An effort by two local non-profit agencies is aimed at raising awareness of the plight of those facing homelessness and hunger, while also raising money to help those in need.
The Shepherd’s House homeless shelter and Helping Hands Food Pantry will be sponsoring the Nov. 5 Light The Way walk as part of a nationwide effort in November to raise awareness of those suffering from both of those challenges
Jana Elliott, executive director for the Shepherd’s House, said those who want to participate in the walk can raise money from friends and family as part of their effort for that day. Some area individuals are even putting together walking and fund-raising teams, similar to what happens with Alzheimer’s Disease and cancer awareness walks.
“We’re encouraging local business owners to take part in a round-up campaign at their point of sale, with customers rounding up to the nearest dollar,” with the additional change going to the hunger effort.
“We’ll be trying to drive purchasers to those businesses through our social media,” she said of those retailers who can partner with her agency.
She also hopes those taking part in the walk will bring food items to donate to Helping Hands and the Shepherd’s House.
Elliot said she and board members at the agencies are hoping to use the walk and other events throughout November to not only raise money, but to drive home awareness of just how prevalent both issues are — something that has become even more apparent to her and the board since opening a larger shelter in Mount Airy earlier this year.
“The Shepherd’s House just came through this major capital campaign,” of the agency building a 64-bed facility. “Going from an 18-bed to a 64-bed facility has increased three times the…operating budget. The last six months in particular, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of families needing services…Foot traffic at Helping Hands has seen an increase.”
All of those challenges have occurred while donations have fallen over the past two years.
Even before the opening of the new facility, the Shepherd’s House had been busy. According to information supplied by the organization, it served 120 individuals in 2021, when it only had an 18-bed facility.
“Over a three-year period, our service potential is over 1,114 individuals,” the information showed.
Helping Hands, its sister agency focused on food security, said it had distributed 150,680 pounds of food in 2021, along with giving $11,650.92 worth of medication assistance.
The primary service area of the two agencies — Mount Airy, along with Surry, Stokes and Yadkin counties — shows a significant percentage of its population living in poverty. Citing U.S. Census Bureau statistics, Helping Hands showed that 26.2% of Mount Airy’s population is living in poverty. That figure is 16% in Surry County, 13.9% in Yadkin County, and 13% in Stokes.
It is those people, Elliot said, that the agencies need to serve, with the accompanying need to let the rest of those communities know just how widespread the problems can be.
Thus, the Nov. 5 walk and other activities next month.
Among those efforts will be asking local folks to specifically shop with merchants displaying purple and orange ribbons, signifying they are raising money for the two agencies.
The walk will be Nov. 5 beginning at 6:30 p.m. in front of Traxx Inc., at 367 South Andy Griffith Parkway in Mount Airy. Those wishing to participate, or wishing to start a team to participate, can visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/light-the-way-homelessness-and-hunger-awareness-walk-tickets-359884764017 or visit the Shepherd’s House Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ShepherdsHouseMountAiry