Giving time is the best gift

By Melissa Smith

Giving back to your community is one of the best ways to utilize free time, and it helps teach the power of helping others. There are many organizations that encourage volunteer involvement. Consider the benefits of getting involved in your community and giving your time to these deserving organizations.

Bread of Life

Bread of Life Community Ministries was founded in 2009 when a group of churches of several denominations in and around Fort Payne and DeKalb County met to discuss the goal of creating a stable source of food for those in need. The economy had taken a hit, and the recession was taking a toll on many in the region. The ministry was seen as a way to provide a nutritious hot meal to hungry folks and to provide a sense of community and encouragement during hard times.

Now, located in the old elementary cafeteria at Fort Payne City Hall, the Bread of Life Soup Kitchen serves a hot meal from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. To learn more contact Peggy Bledsoe at 256-997-6990.

Children’s Advocacy Center

The DeKalb County Children’s Advocacy Center’s mission is to “provide hope and healing for abused and at-risk children.” The center provides therapy and forensic interviews, as well as parent education and family violence prevention.

The CAC sponsors many community events throughout the year, such as the Singing with the Stars competition, co-sponsored with Teddy Gentry of famed country band Alabama. There is also a golf tournament, along with the Holiday Market. The annual Dinner Theatre requires many volunteers to help serve food to attendees. The program runs for seven nights, and local groups and individuals are encouraged to participate. Call 256-997-9700 for more information about how to get involved.

Optimist Club

“The mission of the Fort Payne Optimist Club is to bring out the best in local youth, the best in our communities, and the best in ourselves,” says Brian Baine, president of the Fort Payne Optimist Club. The club promotes patriotism, encourages respect for the law and tries to instill optimism in youth. It offers many chances for members to serve in the community: giving out hot chocolate at the Fort Payne Christmas Parade and donating to make the splash pad in the Alabama Walking Park possible. But, the biggest event is Race to Embrace, which is in April. Race to Embrace is a day of fun for special needs citizens of the community, and there are games and prizes. “We are always looking for more volunteers to help with Race to Embrace,” Baine says. The club is currently looking to increase membership and get more participation from the community. “I really want to highlight the youth,” Baine says. Anyone under the age of 30 can join for just $30 their first year. For more information about how to volunteer or get involved, call Baine at 256-996-4101.

United Givers Fund

The United Givers Fund of DeKalb County was incorporated in 1958. The UGF currently works with 10 agencies that serve DeKalb County residents: DeKalb County American Red Cross, The ARC of DeKalb County, Boy Scouts of America — Greater Alabama Chapter, CASA of DeKalb County/ CASA — Helping Hands, Fort Payne — DeKalb Child Development Center, Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama, Kelley’s Rainbow, Partnership for a Drug Free DeKalb, Salvation Army and United Service Organization. Fundraising for the organizations is carried out by volunteers. For more information about how to become a volunteer, call 256-845-4006.

Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity has worked to better the lives of individuals, our families and the community for 27 years. Anyone over 16 years old may volunteer at construction sites. Volunteers under the age of 18 need a parent or guardian to sign a waiver. Volunteers don’t necessarily have to have any skills or experience in home construction, and all tools are provided. Most of the building work in DeKalb and Jackson Counties is scheduled on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For further information please send questions to habitatjc@gmail.com.

DeKalb Interfaith Medical Clinic

Open on Thursdays from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. No children under the age of 13 are eligible. A maximum of 15 patients can be seen, and it is a first come, first serve basis. Patients must be residents of DeKalb County and have no insurance. If patients do not speak English, please bring a translator of the same sex who is at least 18 years old. The clinic is at 917 Godfrey Ave. SE, Fort Payne. For more information, call 256-845-7955. The clinic is always looking for volunteers to help with paperwork, provide food and counsel patients. No medical experience is necessary. If you are interested in volunteering, please call Dr. Mike or Tammy Story at 256-845-3121 or Diane Smalley at 256-601-3191.

ARC

The mission of the ARC of DeKalb County is to protect the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes. There are several ways to support the local chapter of the ARC. Donations of items such as clothing or furniture are always welcome, as well as memorial gifts or monthly gifts. Contact Christy Wood for more information and how to volunteer at 256-845-0171.