Volunteers needed for emergency community canvassing in Waynesboro

Embrace – A Center for CommunityEmbrace – A Center for Community is conducting an emergency neighborhood canvas of the the Wayne Hills area in Waynesboro to determine which residents may need help in the coming weeks, and which neighbors may be able to provide assistance.

Beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday, March 18 and Friday, March 19, volunteers will fan out, block by block, from the facility’s 932 Fir St. location, leaving a contact card at each residence. Residents are invited to call or email the center to be added to the emergency response database Embrace volunteers are creating. The database will then be used to pair neighbors in need of services, such a grocery and medicine pick-up and delivery, with neighbors who can help.

“At its heart, the Embrace Waynesboro family is a group of neighbors who seek to love their neighbors, and in doing so, build a stronger community,” explained Embrace’s director, Jenelle Watson. “It’s times like these when the power of community is at its strongest, and we believe there is no better time to embrace that spirit and help each other than now.”

Watson explained that every effort is being made to ensure that social distancing recommendations will be followed during the canvas. “We want to keep all of our neighbors safe,” she said, “so our volunteers will work in teams of two or three, each maintaining safe social distance, to leave behind contact information.” In order to not risk the spread of any pathogens, or to make anyone feel uncomfortable, volunteers will not be engaging in surveys of any kind, she explained. “Our neighbors can expect to hear a knock on their door and be handed a card should they answer the door. If the door is not answered, our volunteers will leave a card behind that contains our contact information.”

Volunteers are invited to gather at 10 a.m., in vehicles or groups of two or three, in the Embrace Waynesboro parking lot, located across from the HeadStart/Public Works facility near Kate Collins Middle School. Participants will be given packets that include contact cards and brochures with information about a free home repair project hosted by Embrace this summer, as well as details about the block they are to canvas.

Canvassing volunteers will start with the blocks surrounding the facility, and work in concentric squares outward. The area canvassed will include city blocks from which trash is collected on Thursdays. The perimeter extends from New Hope Road west to the South River/Sherwood Avenue, and northward from Shiloh,

Fairview, Bluff, Bridge and Fairfax to the neighborhoods and apartment complexes straddling Hopeman Parkway. Work will continue until 5 p.m. each day. Volunteers are encouraged to bring hand sanitizer, a bagged lunch and bottled water, as well as masks and gloves if desired.

Embrace – A Center for Community opened in July 2018 in the former Wayne Hills United Methodist Church facility, with funding for overhead and utilities from the UMC congregations across the Staunton District and the District’s Board of Mission Managers. The center, which relies on donations and grant funds for programming, is home to a community garden that provided more than 300 pounds of produce to the Main Street United Methodist Church’s food pantry last year, as well as a free tutoring center for area middle- and high-school students, twice-monthly community meals, and a Little Free Library sponsored by the Waynesboro Kiwanis Club. The facility also houses The Green Hanger Project (greenhangerproject.org), which coordinates collections and distribution of clothing and supplies for at-risk middle- and high-school students.

Working with local government agencies, not-for-profit organizations, churches and civic groups, Embrace hosts a myriad of community events, including cooking and gardening classes, weekly WIC clinics, support groups, and provides free meeting space for community events. This year, Embrace will expand the community garden to include more growing space for food pantry produce and public distribution, as well as plots for area families who may not have access to gardening space, and a neighborhood pumpkin patch. They also  plan to host work teams from two summer mission camps who will provide free home repair and maintenance assistance for elderly, disabled, and low-income residents.

“We view our building and the city block on which it is located not as something we ‘own,’ but rather as a toolbox given by God from which we are called to love our neighbors well and equip the residents of our community to support each other,” said Watson, a local United Methodist Church pastor. “We bring together people of all different faith backgrounds, and those with no faith background, for the simple purpose of living in peace with each other, unconditionally loving neighbors as ourselves, and working together to support each other and this place we call home.” Watson notes that given the amount of need in the Waynesboro area, volunteers are always needed. She is also seeking to form more partnerships with civic organizations and local churches.

Information on Embrace can be found at EmbraceWaynesboro.org or by visiting their Facebook pages, Embrace Waynesboro and Embrace Waynesboro Community Gardens.

Watson can be reached at JenelleWatson@VAUMC.org.


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