Non-profits stand together through COVID-19, keep serving those in need


I grew up on classic TV western shows – John Wayne was king in my house – so I’m familiar with the idea of circling the wagons when there’s trouble.

COVID-19 has grown from a news blip in China, to images of field hospitals going up in New York City’s Central Park, on its way to becoming the biggest source of concern this country has seen in a long time.

My position in community impact at the Catawba County United Way (CCUW) has allowed me to watch as local non-profits decided to circle their wagons and share resources in response to the current crisis.

“The day we closed (March 18) I started reaching out,” Executive Director of Adult Life Programs Mark Bumgarner said. “I knew I wanted to keep my employees paid, and I knew I needed things for them to do. My employees did not want to sit home – they wanted to help. It was an easy decision for us.”

Just a couple of ways the 30 Adult Life employees have volunteered their time includes helping at the Hickory Soup Kitchen to prepare meals and working in Eastern Catawba Cooperative Christian Ministry’s (ECCCM) food warehouse. Both agencies are CCUW funded partners.

This sharing of resources – this standing shoulder to shoulder to make sure the job gets done – has been humbling to observe.

Kristal Manning, ECCCM assistant director, said volunteers play an integral role in the daily operation of their ministry. It’s become even more important during the outbreak.

“COVID-19 has reduced our volunteer help because most of our volunteers are retired and fall into the critical group that needs to stay at home,” Manning said. “When Mark called asking if we needed help it was a true blessing.”

The Catawba County United Way recently helped continue this discussion, inviting its 2020 funded partners to a video conference – the new norm for many of us – where they could share updates, resources and concerns related to the outbreak.

ALFA is still offering medical services and distributing syringes. Senior Nutrition Services modified its services but is still providing meals to its clients. The Council on Adolescents is working with the school systems to get its health programs on their digital platforms.

Family Guidance Center is utilizing remote video systems to host group sessions with clients and for individual counseling sessions. Exodus Homes is using online sales through Facebook to sell items from its thrift store to keep funds coming into the agency.

Greater Hickory Cooperative Christian Ministry continues to provide food assistance through its pantry.

The Red Cross will keep its disaster action teams active and prepared to respond to emergencies. Patrick Beaver Learning Resource Center is looking to provide tutoring through online conferencing. The Salvation Army continues to provide case management.

Jamie Brown, Sipe’s Orchard Home executive director said he heard about a need from another non-profit and was able to connect them to his church for help.

Director of Catawba County Social Services Karen Harrington said she isn’t surprised by this collaboration.

“Through our work at Social Services, we have seen how more and more residents are benefitting from the efforts of our community’s many local nonprofit and faith-based partners,” Harrington said. “We are grateful for their continued efforts to help each other and our residents.”

So, any time I start to feel a bit uninspired about having to spend another day sitting in my kitchen working remotely. I now remind myself of all those staff and volunteers who keep hitting the ground running every morning, trying to find any way they can to make a difference.

If you’d like to help support these and other community partners during this crisis, consider making a donation to the Catawba County United Way COVID-19 Response Fund. Visit,

To learn about other COVID-19 related resources call 2-1-1 or visit