With the recent events in Charlottesville, there have been a lot of questions coming into my personal email and social media. These questions range from asking “How can I talk to my children about what happened? or “How do I talk to my 5 year old about racism?” or “What can I be doing to help as a new parent and I don’t have a lot of time or extra money/ energy?” What I also noticed throughout this past week is that my Black colleagues, friends and parents were not asking me questions about educating their children and were often quiet on the subject. So I asked one of my Black colleagues who is also a good friend and she put it to me like this, “We don’t have the luxury of deciding whether or not ‘to educate’ our children; this is our lives. These are the waters in which we daily swim and really we need more White people to join us here.”
So this month we are tackling the question on how to help. This question is a hard one but I turn to the teachings of Rachel Naomi Remen for support. She says “But perhaps there is a deeper question we might consider. Perhaps the real question is not ‘how can we help?’, but ‘how can we serve?’”
Serving is different from helping. Helping is based on inequality; it is not a relationship between equals. When you help you use your own strength to help those of lesser strength. The act of helping sets up an imbalanced relationship in which a person is “helping” someone who’s not as strong as they are or who is needier than they are. The receiver of the ‘help’ will feel this inequality. When we help, we may diminish the receivers self-esteem, their sense of worth, integrity and wholeness. To serve, we do not have to know the right thing to say or know all the answers. The beauty of serving is that our limitations, wounds and even our darkness are often our gifts and then service becomes a relationship between equals.
In this vein, myself and Homegrown Babies are calling our community into service. We understand that being a new parent is a vulnerable time but that the future could not be more on your minds. We know it is tempting to turn off the news and shelter our children from what is happening in the world. However, protecting them now will not ensure a safe future for them in return. Raising resilient children is more critical than ever and as parents we need to deal with our discomfort and to talk to them about the difficult and morally complex issues that are happening right now. But we also need to model taking action and threading service through our daily family lives.
To support you in finding ways to serve, we have compiled The New Parents Guide to Weaving Social Justice and Advocacy into your Daily Life
We hope that you are able to find some resources below to support you and your family in finding your passions and serving our community.
The New Parents Guide to Weaving Social Justice and Advocacy into your Daily Life
Volunteering and serving as a family is something special you can all do together and supports your children in thinking larger than themselves. Below are some tips for infusing advocacy and or volunteering into your busy life.
- Put it on the calendar! Have a family meeting once a week and within the weekly work and school details, plan for your monthly advocacy or volunteering.
- Go with your children and get to know your neighbors. Knock on the door of an elderly neighbor or a family down the street you haven’t said hello to. Bring a gift such as a baked good or flowers. Prioritize taking the time to come out of your own bubble and create connection with people who are different than you.
- Attend the Lunch and Learn Series put on by Buncombe County.
- Volunteer/spend some time at your child’s school. Get to know their classmates and their families. Invite children from different religions, race or socio-economic backgrounds to your home for playdates.
- Help your child draw or write letters: Young children can draw or write letters that convey love, concern, or support to anyone.
- Put together care packages once a month for a local non-profit or support group. Children love putting together packages/presents!
- Make donations: Older kids can start a clothing drive, collect sleeping bags, raise funds with friends for the Red Cross, or gather all the coins to make a donation.
- Attend a service, fundraiser, march or rally together.
Volunteering with your kids provides them the opportunity to learn how to be civically engaged and see outside of their own world. This allows families to engage in conversations that challenge them to think in a community centric way.
You can find ideal family volunteering situations with a bit of scouting around. When you consider your kids’ ages, think about where they’ll feel welcomed and where their skills can best be put to use.
Once you identify an organization to help, be sure to tell their staff your kids’ ages before you go. Everyone wants the experience to be a success for everyone. Keep these tips in mind, too:
Kids 7 & Under
Plan to work alongside your children to guide and encourage them (plus keep an eye on them). That way you can share observations and later talk about the experience.
Kids 8 to 13
Look for opportunities where your older can have more independence. You don’t necessarily have to work side by side plus it gives your child a chance to demonstrate more responsibility. Ensure any supervisory role you do play enhances your child’s experience and strengthens their independent abilities.
Kids 14 & Older
Opportunities abound to volunteer with older kids. Ask your child what they are interested in and be ready with encouragement and to roll up your sleeves!
What are you passionate about?
Want to connect with your family about social advocacy and volunteering? Here are some questions to guide your conversations.
What interests us? What do we care about most?
What do we like to do?
What skills and talents can we offer?
What projects would be suitable for all our family members?
How much time do we have?
WNC Local Advocacy Groups
Education and Child/Youth Development
The Creative Peacemakers after school program for at risk children in West Asheville provides a safe and nourishing environment, healthy snacks, and creative activities. Our mission is to bring peace to our communities by helping our children practice peacemaking through cooperative play and creative expression. Our program currently meets during the school year on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons 3:30-5:30 p.m. There are a number of ways to be involved. Please contact Noel Schwartz via email or call 901-274-3106.
Together with donors, volunteers, and partners, United Way believes in a community where each person has the opportunity to achieve the aspirations we all share: a good education for our kids, a roof over our heads, food on the table and the security that comes with financial stability. Their primary goal is to reduce the impact of poverty in Asheville and Buncombe County. Ways to get involved – With more than 260 opportunities listed each month, it’s easy to connect with a cause that fits your interests and schedule. Go their website to see the variety of volunteer options and get involved today.
YTL (Youth Transformed for Life)
If you’re excited about breaking down barriers and uplifting youth to succeed in education and personal growth, check out Youth Transformed for Life. Way to get involved – With a baby on your back, you can mentor a teen, sponsor a teen or make a donation!
My Daddy Taught Me That/My Sistah Taught Me That
My Daddy Taught Me That is a program designed to support the development, uplift, and education of youth and young males. The organization’s focus is to teach young men how to transition from the young teen adolescent time in their lives into responsible young men; focusing on good decision making, accepting responsibility, and being accountable for their actions.
My Sistah Taught Me That (MSTMT) is a young girl’s developmental program designed to encourage, inspire, educate, and empower young girls ages 11-19 with a special focus on girls growing up in single parent homes without their father. This program was created so young ladies in Buncombe County and surrounding areas in Western North Carolina may have the chance to be exposed to professional leaders in our community who are dedicated to providing opportunities, open dialogue, and exposure to things they wouldn’t routinely do, with the intent of helping them grow and mature.
Ways to get involved: Apply today to be involved in either program and support WNC youth, attend their fundraisers and events showcasing the youth’s talents or make a donation to support either or both organizations.
Big Brothers/Big Sisters of WNC
Be a role model and make a lifelong friendship through participating in the Big Brother/Big Sisters of WNC program. Every child deserves to have an enjoyable, long-term relationship with a caring adult who believes in them and sees their potential. Ways to get involved: This is an amazing way to plug in even if you have a baby or small child. Become a “BIG” today!
Buncombe County Partnership for Children
Buncombe County Partnership for Children focuses on improving the quality of accessible, affordable early education. Providing families support in the first 2,000 days of a child’s life, ages 0-5 years. The majority of brain development happens during this time, forming the foundation for all future learning. Ways to get involved: Write a letter to the editor or your local government to show your support for funding programs that help all children success. Host a First 2,000 Days gathering. If you gather the group, we’ll provide the speaker. You can share information with your congregation as well! Show up! Check our news and events page for what we are doing around town!
Open Doors of Asheville connects local children living in multi-generational poverty with an active, individualized network of support and Opportunities for education and enrichment. At Open Doors, we invest in kids who live in poverty so they will learn to invest in themselves and in the end, break the cycle of poverty for themselves and for our community. Ways to get involved: Contact Opens Doors to see volunteer opportunities or make a donation.
The YWCA was founded as a voice for women’s issues. They have continued to evolve to meet today’s challenges in eliminating racism and empowering women. Ways to get involved: Make a donation to support their programs and efforts or volunteer in one or more of their amazing programs supporting women, children and those in need. Children are welcome!
Center for Participatory Change
Center for Participatory Change: CPC’s work is rooted in popular education, a collective learning process where communities build awareness and strengthen their abilities to create change. CPC centers the communities most affected by structural inequities, especially Latino and Black communities. Their community organizing includes sharing stories, song, ritual, food and bringing our whole authentic selves. Ways to get involved: Connect with CPC and learn more about their programs and work in the community. You can also make a donation or become a monthly donor!
ABIPA – Asheville Buncombe Institute of Parity Achievement
ABIPA (Asheville Buncombe Institute of Parity Achievement): ABIPA promotes economic, social, and health parity achievement for African Americans and other people of color in Buncombe County through advocacy, education, research, and community partnerships. Ways to get involved: Contact ABIPA to see how you can volunteer. Or make a donation to support their efforts.
Showing Up for Racial Justice
SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice): SURJ’s role as part of a multi-racial movement is to undermine white support for white supremacy and to help build a racially just society. Come together as a community aimed for equality and take part of a powerful multi-racial, cross-class movement for collective liberation we can force the system of white supremacy to crumble. Ways to get involved: Are you interested in being a social media ambassador? Or write a blog post? Participate in or organize families for racial justice? Contact SURJ for easy ways to get involved.
WNC Advocacy League
WNC Advocacy League serves the community by connecting community members in need with their neighbors and services. You name it they take it on. They have on staff legal advocates, mental health specialists, geriatric specialists, community liaisons, intake specialists, etc. It can be something as simple as seeing to it that someone has transportation to an important appointment or an elders trash needs to be taken out. They can help. work with other agencies as needed to ensure that our community members aren’t falling through the cracks, but being looked after and cared for, with compassion. Ways to get involved: Contact WNCAL to explore ways to volunteer with your family, this is a great charity for families with children and a wonderful way to make new connections in the community.
The Eblen Charities
The Eblen Charities is a non-profit organization whose outreach extends throughout the counties of western North Carolina and through its numerous programs has helped thousands upon thousand of families each year with medical and emergency assistance. Through their numerous programs, partnerships and outreach they help tens of thousands children, adults and families each year. Ways to get involved: To volunteer with Eblen Charities and be part of their outreach, events, and serve those in need in our community please contact their Volunteer Coordinator, Mary Ann McMinn 828-768-8301. They often welcome children of all ages at many of their events.
Hands On Asheville-Buncombe
Hands On Asheville-Buncombe the volunteer center of United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County, makes it easy to lend a hand and help others in our community by volunteering with local nonprofits, schools and government entities. The service area is Buncombe County. Ways to get involved: They have over 200 opportunities to serve! Contact Charlie Lee at 828-255-0696 or visit their website for over 200 opportunities to serve.
Women’s Wellbeing and Development Foundation
The WWD-F Hillcrest Community Resource Center works to promote healthy living, self-sufficiency, and community wellness by increasing residents’ access to supports and services. Volunteers are needed in the Resource Center computer lab to assist with resume-building, job searches, and emails. Ways to get involved: Shifts available Mon-Thurs, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Volunteers are also needed to provide childcare while residents attend Resource Center classes. Please contact Lauren via email or (828) 423-2954 for more information.
Helpmate is an essential non-profit that provides services to victims of domestic violence in Buncombe County. Providing victims with a 24-Hour Hotline: (828) 254-0516, emergency shelter, Individual and group counseling, help building a safe, stable future, court advocacy, training of professionals and community leaders, preventive education for at-risk groups including youth groups Ways to get involved: Become a hotline advocate, a case management advocate or a social resource. More volunteer opportunities available!
Our Voice is a non-profit crisis intervention and prevention agency which serves victims of sexual violence, age 13 through adult, in Buncombe County. There are many different opportunities to volunteer, including being a Victim Advocate, Community Educator, Mentor, and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force member. Support their efforts in engaging the community in sexual violence prevention and helping victims of sexual violence. Ways to get involved: Become an advocate, community educator, or join the street team to name a few! Their fundraisers and events are very family friendly. Visit their website to learn more.
Community Involvement/ Local Government
City Council Meetings
Stay in the know of Asheville happenings by attending the local City Council Meetings. Go their website to see future dates/times and agendas.
Pisgah Legal Services
Pisgah Legal Services is an innovative nonprofit law firm founded in 1978 that provides free civil legal aid to people who live in poverty. They help more than 15,000 of the most vulnerable people in our communities annually to meet urgent needs such as: housing, safety from abuse, health care and income. They are an essential organization and resource in our community. Ways to get involved: Although this one is not as family friendly, we felt like it belonged on this list! There are opportunities for helping individuals complete an application for services emailing client paperwork to attorneys and staff members at different offices and providing information on local resources.
Youth Outright is the only youth advocacy and leadership non-profit organization in the region solely dedicated to empowering lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning/queer, intersex, asexual and allied (LGBTQIA+) youth ages 14-20 in Western North Carolina. Engaging and supporting LGBTQIA+ youth to be confident, resilient and compassionate community members. Ways to get involved: Staff fundraising events, chaperone youth events, be a social media ambassador, create and update resource guides and staffing events such as Downtown After 5.
The Campaign for Southern Equality
The Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE) is based in Asheville, North Carolina, and works across the South to promote full LGBTQ equality – both legal and lived. One third of all LGBTQ Americans live in the South. Yet across the region, LGBTQ people lack basic legal protections, face robust opposition to our rights and have limited resources for advocacy. Ways to get involved: Join the campaign’s efforts by donating to their organization supporting essential projects such as LGBTQ Rights Toolkit or Legal Equality Project.
Riverlink promotes the environmental and economic vitality of the French Broad River and its watershed as a place to live, learn, work and play. They accomplish their mission by providing permanent public access to the river through conservation and recreation easements, greenway development, educating 5,000 students K-12 annually as well as the public-at-large about the French Broad River watersheds’ importance and empowering over 1,700 volunteers each year. Ways to get involved: Be one of those volunteers! They have monthly opportunities and group events. Grab the kids and join in on a river clean up or an invasive plant clearing! Check their calendar to see all they have to offer.
Mountain True, previously called WNC Alliance, is a grassroots environmental organization that works to promote a sense of stewardship and caring for the natural environment. Citizens and chapters protect and preserve our natural land, water and air resources through education and public participation in policy decisions at all levels of business and government. They have chapters in Haywood, Buncombe, Macon, Jackson, Clay, Cherokee and Watauga Counties, as well as task forces dedicated to forests and public parks. Ways to get involved: Mountain True is always in need of volunteers to help out with special events and festivals, water quality monitoring, invasive plant removal and many other areas of our work. If you’re interested in volunteering with them, please email Susan Bean.
Habitat for Humanity
Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity –Safe and decent housing provides families an opportunity for stability, security and personal and professional advancement. Habitat builds houses and helps to preserve existing homes. Ways to get involved: You can volunteer, donate, sponsor, and advocate at a state and national level. With some skills you can support at a construction site or join the team at their Re-store.
Mountain Housing Opportunities
Since its founding in 1988, Mountain Housing Opportunities has worked Western North Carolina to provide safety-related home repairs for low-income homeowners in Asheville and Buncombe County. Ways to get involved: Mountain Housing Opportunities offers rewarding volunteer opportunities throughout the year and you can donate to help accomplish this good work. Contact them now to see their community involvement projects.
Homeward Bound is a nonprofit organization ending homelessness in Buncombe and Henderson Counties of North Carolina. They consist of a non-judgmental staff, volunteers, board members, and people knowledgeable in social work disciplines who believe in the “Housing First” national best practice for ending homelessness. Mostly, we’re people who care about the most vulnerable among us enough to do something about it. Ways to get involved: It is easy to contribute as you can give money, give time, give stuff. Whatever your availability or budget there in a way to plug in.
MANNA Food Bank
The founders of MANNA FoodBank had a clear vision: that the people of Western North Carolina can go to work or look for work, go to school, play, worship, and sleep without the burden of hunger. They work tirelessly in WNC to involve, educate and unite people in ending hunger…hunger free-WNC. Ways to get involved: Volunteer in a group or as an individual. Participate in special events (empty bowls, Ingles giving tree, holiday gift wrapping), be a MANNA ambassador, warehouse volunteer and more…
Loving Food Resources
The mission of Loving Food Resources (LFR) is to provide food, health, and personal care items to people in 18 counties of Western North Carolina living with HIV/AIDS or those in home hospice care with any diagnosis. LFR is a partner agency of MANNA FoodBank (the Feeding America Program) and has been an all-volunteer agency for its first 23 years of operation. Ways to get involved: Volunteers remain the heart and soul of our organization with more than 150 volunteers participating in the operation of the pantry. Volunteers are needed on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturdays at a variety of times. Contact LFR for further information about volunteering. Phone: 828-255-9282 or via email.
Meals On Wheels of Buncombe County
The mission of Meals on Wheels of Asheville-Buncombe County is to provide hot, nutritious meals to the elderly homebound, thus allowing them to live in their own homes, among familiar surroundings and maintain their dignity while aging. Meals On Wheels of Buncombe County is a largely volunteer-run, Meals on Wheels provides low-priced home-delivered meals to an average of 350 local persons daily. Ways to get involved: Help out in the kitchen, deliver a meal (once a week/month/year), Desperate for volunteer drivers in the downtown and Enka-Candler areas, participate in special events or help out in their office. Look over the full list of opportunities on their website.