WILMINGTON — When the pandemic hit, Coastal Bringing Up Down Syndrome (BUDS) of Southeastern N.C. was one of many nonprofits forced to scale back operations while finding alternative ways to serve its 40 families. The organization’s biggest awareness event of the year, World Down Syndrome Day held each March, became a drive-thru operation, and its major fundraiser, Cape Fear Buddy Walk, went virtual.
As such, the nonprofit endured a 5% drop in fundraising, according to executive director Jessica Wilson. Sponsorships and participation fell off during Covid, and the nonprofit was functioning with only one part-time staff member and less volunteers.
Coastal BUDS’ story is similar to more than 30 nonprofit partners also housed at The Harrelson Center at 410 Princess St. Founded in 2008, the center’s 60,000-square-foot campus acts as a hub for organizations to rent office space at below-market value, while also benefiting from recruitment, marketing and educational opportunities all in one place. The nonprofit partners tackle pressing community issues, from education to housing, health care to food insecurity, youth enrichment to social justice.
The Harrelson Center will shine a light on its partners during its “I Live Here. I Give Here.” campaign, set to launch on Giving Tuesday — a national effort that began in 2012 as a way for people to help a neighbor in need, advocate for a local issue, or support nonprofits. It started as a counterpoint to the consumerism of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, but instead focused on humanitarian efforts and encouraging generosity the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.
“After nearly two years of virtual events, the center’s partners are eager to engage with people face-to-face, sharing their missions, wishlists and volunteer needs, as well as achievements and measurable impact on our city,” Meade Van Pelt, executive director of The Harrelson Center, said in a press release.
Harrelson Center’s all-day affair will be hosted at its new event venue, Plaza on Princess, featuring performances, food trucks, and midday tours of the campus. Nonprofit organizations will be set up to share current needs with the community as well.
Coastal BUDS’ goal is to raise $1,500 on Giving Tuesday to continue its mission of connecting individuals with Down syndrome to resources and opportunities promoting an active and engaging lifestyle. The funds specifically will go toward the launch of a healthy cooking program added to its direct services in 2022.
But for those who may not be able to give financially, executive director Wilson assures manpower is as important nowadays: “COVID restrictions and precautions made it more difficult to offer all programming due to the organization’s dependency on volunteers.”
People who stop by The Harrelson Center on Tuesday will be able to sign up to help with Coastal BUDS’ annual Family Picnic in the Summer, iCan Swim camp, parent meetups, and other fundraisers.
Last month, the organization was able to welcome back the community to its 2021 Buddy Walk at Brunswick Riverwalk Plaza, and it resumed its Next Chapter Book Club at Brunswick Forest in Leland. From the reading group, another club emerged: The Strolling Snow Cones singing ensemble.
“A few months back, they decided to read ‘A Christmas Carol’ and thought it would be fun to sing some songs together and perform around the holidays,” Wilson said. “Their scheduling has been filling up with performance requests.”
The Singing Snow Cones features four facilitators and seven members with disabilities, ranging in age from late 20s to early 70s. They will take over Harrelson Center’s plaza on Tuesday to sing holiday classics (“Jingle Bells,” “Deck the Halls,” “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”). Wilson said they’re also scheduled to perform at the End of Year Celebration, Sunday, Dec. 5 (tickets are $5 for the general public to watch the performance, enjoy food and learn more about the programming).
Coastal BUDS will have information about the organization ready for community members, but for people who can’t make the event, there is still a way to participate online.
“We will be doing a social media push for donations via Share Cape Fear,” Wilson said.
Over 125 local nonprofits will participate virtually in the Harrelson Center’s Giving Tuesday event via sharecapefear.org. The website allows donors to make monetary contributions, sign up to volunteer, or peruse wishlists from area nonprofits.
On Giving Tuesday, food trucks will be set up at 410 Princess St., serving breakfast from 7 a.m. – 9 a.m., lunch from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. and dinner from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. Multiple performances also take place throughout the day:
- 11 a.m. — Theatre for All’s open-mic, featuring members of their performance company, all of whom have a disability
- 11:15 a.m. — Turning the Wheel’s creative play pop-up, an improvisational movement exercise
- Noon — Theatre for All flash mob
- 4 p.m. — Strolling Snow Cones holiday performance
- 4:30 p.m. — Young Scientists Academy’s interactive science experiments and activities, presented by its youth ambassadors
- 5 p.m. — Perry Smith’s drum circle
WECT’s Francis Weller will broadcast live throughout the event, starting at 6 a.m.
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