As the holiday season gives way to winter, here’s how to help those in need

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Cones surround a downed power line crossing Burnett Boulevard near the Port of Wilmington. Photo by Jonathan Spiers.
Winter may not bring much snow to Wilmington, but it brings plenty of cold weather, including freezing rain that can be deadly.

WILMINGTON — Despite a few unseasonably balmy days in December, colder days are definitely ahead. For members of Wilmington’s homeless and at-risk community, this can be the hardest time of year. As Rick Stoker, senior pastor at First Fruit Ministries, told Port City last month, “Thanksgiving is good, it brings out a lot of volunteers. Not as many at Christmas. And after that, it dies off – and that’s when people need it the most.”

But local shelters, soup-kitchens and outreach centers need more than continued help, they also need specific things for the cold season. Port City Daily contacted some local organizations to hear what they need for the winter season. Here is how you can help them help the needy.

First Fruit Ministries – First Fruit Ministries provides many services, including a food pantry at their main location, open Tuesday, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., Wednesday 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Stoker said anyone interested in donating food or clothing should contact First Fruit Ministries at (910) 794-9656. As always, interested volunteers can find a weekly schedule of events and register online. Stoker said First Fruit expands its services during the Christmas season, but, even more importantly, it needs volunteers moving into the new year. The First Fruit campus is located at 2750 Vance St.

Good Shepherd Center – The center relies almost entirely on volunteer work to run both their soup kitchen and overnight shelter programs. There is no minimum – or maximum – limit to volunteering, but the center does require potential volunteers to fill out an application and attend a 30 minute orientation process.

Volunteer Coordinator Whitney Smith said, “for those who don’t have the time for volunteering, or who just want to donate food and clothing, we do have some specific needs. In terms of clothing, we need extra, extra large coats, big enough that anyone can wear. We need hand warmers, men’s gloves, again bigger sizes. And we can always take cough drops. We give out a lot of them in the winter.”

In this season of office and family parties, there are often leftovers, “and you can drop off any kind of food, it doesn’t matter if it’s opened or homemade. In terms of staples, we always need the big three – salt, butter and sugar. We serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, so we go through a lot.”

Smith said interested volunteers should visit the website to recieve an application and information about the center’s programs and needs. The center is located at 811 Martin St. and can be reached at (910) 763-4424.

Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard – Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard is a non-profit organization, founded in 1985, that serves as both a community pantry and soup kitchen.

Mother Hubbard’s sole goal is to feed the homeless and in-need and they focus on on non-perishables that families can take home and cook for themselves. The following list was provided to guide donations: Healthy Soup, cereal, fruit (preferably hardier fruits like apples), canned meat, dried or canned beans, macaroni and cheese (dried packets), dried spaghetti. Mother Hubbard’s also redistributes personal hygiene items, such as shampoo and conditioners, soap, tampons, razors and toothbrushes.

Mother’s Hubbard is located at 315 Redcross St. in downtown Wilmington. It can be reached at (910) 762-2199. Those interested in volunteering should visit the website for information or contact Mother’s Hubbard Cupboard via email at volunteer@motherhubbardsnc.org with their name, contact information and availability.

United Way – The United Way provides a wide range of services including schools, shelters, senior centers, food banks, low-income neighborhoods and more. The United Way also works with community organizers to help support and staff locally initiated volunteer projects.

Chris Nelson, president of the United Way of the Cape Fear Area, told Port City Daily, “The Cape Fear area needs volunteers all year round. But, in terms of winter, there is always a need for winter coats and blankets. You can donate them to Salvation Army, the Good Shepherd, and First Fruit Ministries.”

Nelson added, “one specific thing I can suggest for winter, is to help families with their power bills. You can donate to the Salvation Army, and that money will go directly to helping a family in need keep their heat on for the winter.”

The United Way also reminds those in the Cape Fear Area that there are still families recovering from Hurricane Matthew. The United Way also provides a volunteer portal which matches individual skills and interests with local community projects.

Wilmington Interfaith Hospitality Center – The center organizes over 40 local congregations to host families and provide food and support services. The center has a support staff that helps Wilmington’s homeless community acquire employment, healthcare, housing and the other support to become independent. One of their most important programs, particularly in the winter months, is their emergency shelter for families in need. Families in the emergency shelter receive three months of housing, meals at no cost and assistance in job training and placement.

The center provides opportunities for volunteering year round, in particular they look for volunteers to cook meals for area families in need. Volunteers typically cook for groups of nine or ten. The center works through congregations across town and their support services are located at 4938 Oleander Dr. where they can be reached at (910) 769-4730 for more information about volunteering time, supplies, food or money, contact the center at 910-769-4730 or online.

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