The strength of a community is often measured by how it cares for those who are less fortunate. In the Harrisonburg-Rockingham area, the strong giving spirit of individuals and businesses powers the success of nonprofits such as the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.
Headquartered just south of Harrisonburg in Verona, Virginia, the Food Bank serves 25 counties and eight cities in the Blue Ridge area, providing food to over 103,000 people each month.
“We’re proud to be a part of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham community,” said Carrie Covey, development director at Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. “We work through different partner agencies and programs to provide nourishing foods to neighbors in need. This community is collectively compassionate and giving and we’re proud to work with so many people to nourish our community.”
The Food Bank has seen the benefits of connecting with the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber.
“Working through the Chamber has helped us connect with different businesses and organizations for volunteer opportunities and for financial support through food and fund drives, as well as sponsorship opportunities,” Covey said.
One of the most prominent ways the Food Bank works with the Chamber is through the Valley Businesses Give Back program.
The program, which started in 2011, is a “collaboration and friendly competition between three local chambers of commerce and area businesses to determine who can raise the most funds and collect the most food to benefit the Food Bank,” Covey said.
The event takes place during the summer, when donations to the Food Bank are usually lower than normal. In 2019, three area chambers of commerce collected – in food and financial donations – the equivalent of over 79,000 meals.
“It makes a huge impact in our community in the summer months,” Covey said.
Residents play an important role as well.
“The community support is so, so important,” Covey said. “Together we can work to make sure that everyone has enough to eat. We are grateful to have community members stand with us who share in that belief, too.”
The Food Bank is just one of the many organizations working on poverty-related issues in the area.
“We know that hunger is definitely a big issue, but it’s not the only issue,” Covey said. “We work hard to collaborate with other nonprofit partners who are addressing various issues related to poverty.”
The giving spirit is evident throughout the area, including families with young children; high-schoolers who are helping out as part of a class assignment, and senior citizens who are making their retirement years more meaningful by helping the community.
Some of the organizations that rely on volunteer help and exemplify the community spirit include:
Our Community Place: This organization helps those who are in transition, providing meals and many other services to help people get back on their feet. Located in Harrisonburg’s Northeast Neighborhood for 10 years, it serves 8,300 hot meals a year and provides services such as employment help, housing assistance, medical referrals, counseling and support groups for mental health and substance abuse issues.
People Places: A private, nonprofit agency that serves Harrisonburg and many surrounding areas, provides services that include foster care and adoption. The organization helped establish the Treatment Foster Care model, which is goal oriented and focuses on permanency planning for children.
Strength in Peers: This peer-run organization is designed for people who have overcome challenges related to mental health, substance abuse and trauma. Serving Rockingham and a few other nearby counties, Strength in Peers helps those who are looking to recover from life’s challenges.
Way to Go: Low-income, working families in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County can get help with their transportation needs through the nonprofit organization Way to Go. The organization started in 2005 as a way to donate working pre-owned vehicles to people in need and has expanded to include assistance for transportation-related issues such as insurance payments, fees and payment for urgent vehicle repairs.
Salvation Army: Assess the Need. FIRST, we assess the needs of each community in which we serve. We work to understand the obstacles, hardships, and challenges native to the area’s particular population.
Build the Programs. NEXT, we build local programs designed to offer immediate relief, short-term care, and long-term growth in the areas that will best benefit the community.
THEN, we offer the local programs to the local community, working to continually optimize their efficacy via spiritual, physical, and emotional service.”
ValleyFest – Shenandoah Valley Beer and Wine Festival: This popular event, which is run by the Chamber, relies on a small army of volunteers to ensure its success. Proceeds go toward Chamber-supported programs, including scholarships and education and leadership development.