By Sarah Richardson
One of Greenbrier County’s newest nonprofits was the recipient of a large wave of donations from the campers at Camp Alleghany this month after the camp chose to donate blessing bags to those less fortunate. West Virginia Helping Hands, a 501(c)3 organization, received the multitude of bags from the camp last week, and the second term of campers is already preparing their round of donations, as well.
“This year is the 99th summer of Camp Allegheny,” said Laura Gorsuch, Camp Allegany’s ‘Ghany We Will Give chair.
“A few years ago, the Director of Camps, Elizabeth Shreckhise, wanted to start a type of community service program for the area, and that’s how ‘Ghany We Will Give began. I believe this is our seventh summer doing the program. Every year in the winter we choose the direction or group we want to go with. In the past we’ve done Relay for Life, the Greenbrier Humane Society, and the Family Refuge Center and local school system.”
She explained how for this year’s project, she reached out to her mom, Mary Cole Dietz, and Delilah Dixon, who both work at the Greenbrier Valley Visitor’s Center and had already been assisting WV Helping Hands with some of their projects, including filling local blessing boxes.
“My mom works at the Visitor’s Center downtown and she helped Delilah build blessing bags, so the camp ended up reaching out to WV Helping Hands and they were thrilled that we wanted to help,” said Gorsuch.
“We are honored to be working with West Virginia Helping Hands, whose mission fosters coming together to help our fellow neighbors and promote community support and growth,” states a release from the camp. “This newly established non-profit organization is committed to serving West Virginia residents who are in dire need by providing Blessing Boxes throughout the state. A recent new project, Blessing Bags, was added as a result of feedback regarding the needs of elderly, homeless, and destitute folks in the area. Blessing Bags are in great demand.”
Blessing bags consists of hygiene products and basic necessities. Toothbrushes, toothpaste, socks, hand sanitizers, lotions, shampoo, conditioner, tissues, deodorant, combs, chapstick, and more are typically found in such a bag, which WV Helping Hands makes sure get into the hands of people who need them through distribution in blessing boxes around the county.
“Our main goal with forming the 501(c)3 was to provide a process for change,” said Amy Hubbard of WV Helping Hands. Hubbard was motivated to be a catalyst for forming a non-profit while becoming involved with the community through her daycare, Little Learners. She realized the need of such resources in the immediate area, and filed for their tax-exempt status in January 2021, and got final approval in April.
WV Helping Hands has been building and stocking blessing boxes for months, and now, thanks to the campers, they have over 150 blessing bags to distribute.
“We’ve been able to fill so many blessing boxes with bags,” said Hubbard. “It’s incredible.”
Laura explained how the campers were able to make so many bags by working together to gather each type of item.
“We set it up so that each age group of campers brought a certain item to go in the bags. For each of our four camp sessions, which includes two full camp terms, a mini-camp, and a mother-daughter weekend, families donated items. We took them and put them together, and made the first donation of blessing bags. This weekend our second term of campers are arriving, and we will have a whole other round of items incoming,” she said
“Sometimes it’s hard for the campers because you can’t see where your donations go, but our 14s and 15s were actually the ones to assemble the bags and put them together, so they got to feel included in that process.”
Anyone wishing to work with WV Helping Hands is invited to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.