Local shelter: Spirit of giving needed most after holiday season

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Thanksgiving may be over, but hunger never ends. Local charities did a lot for families yesterday who needed some extra help with their holiday meals. Linda Jones with the Union Mission says that kind of volunteerism is well received and abundant this time of year.

“With the holidays, all of our hearts are touched and warm and we think of other people more,” she explained.

WAVY.com caught up with a woman who is visiting family in Hampton Roads and took time to stock food pantry shelves at the Union Mission.

‘”We just thought it would be a nice thing to do after Thanksgiving and we’d rather be here fighting around at the mall,” said Ann Hayes.

While that spirit of giving is much appreciated by Linda Jones and staff at the Union Mission, she doesn’t want people to forget that the need continues even after the holiday season wraps up.

“Dec. 26 our numbers drop and we stop getting the phone calls,” she said. “We need volunteers all year long.”

By February she said the shelves in the food pantry will be bare. Both because the food is donated to families that may not be homeless but struggle to put food on the table, and because it feeds the 350 men, women, and children living at the shelter.

She also said volunteers after the holidays are more difficult to find.

“While Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to give and Christmas is also, we need help all year round because we’re serving those same people three meals a day, 365 days a year,” Jones said.

She said the shelter sees it’s highest numbers not just during December, January and February when the temperatures can be coldest but also during the warmest days. That’s a time of year a lot of people, she said, don’t realize the homeless need help.

“Most people don’t think of also needing shelter in the summer months when it’s really hot people have to escape the heat of the streets,” Jones told WAVY.com

Jones also said the number of homeless in the shelter is trending upward, but it’s too soon to tell if that will last the whole year.

“We’ll see as the cold weather increases if those numbers continue to rise,” she continued. “But they are rising unfortunately and we want to be there and want to help everyone who comes through our doors but we can’t do it without the community and we really need their help.”

If you do want to donate Christmas items, Jones said you must drop donations off soon. The Union Mission volunteers need a few weeks to organize and deliver all of the gifts in time for Christmas.

Right now the gifts they need most are toys for children over age 12, exercise mats for people to sleep on and extra-large sized coats for homeless adults.


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