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News / Business / Clark County Business

12 ideas for giving season: Many places in Clark County could use your gift of time or supplies

By Alexis Weisend, Columbian staff reporter
Published: December 20, 2023, 6:08am
4 Photos
Volunteers Rob Fleskes, left, and Laurie Southwell, both of Vancouver, sort bins of frozen meat Tuesday at the Clark County Food Bank.
Volunteers Rob Fleskes, left, and Laurie Southwell, both of Vancouver, sort bins of frozen meat Tuesday at the Clark County Food Bank. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The end of the year is often called the season of giving, with people exchanging gifts for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and other holidays.

If you’ve finished holiday shopping for your family and friends, there are many places around Clark County that could use some gifts as well — whether you give your time or supplies.

Most organizations helping people who are homeless or struggling to afford food are continuing to serve people throughout the holidays and could use some help.

That gift could even be lending an ear to someone spending the holidays in a shelter, workers say. It can be a lonely time of year for people experiencing homelessness.

“It especially makes the difference at this time of the year because a lot of us are having trouble and just having that smile and that just, ‘Hey, I see you,’ makes all the difference in the world,” said Keith Wells, who coordinates volunteers through Outsiders Inn for Winter Hospitality Overflow shelters.

At a time of year when many people’s dining room tables are filled with food for the holidays, others are struggling to get food.

“Over the past several months, we’ve seen the number of people we serve increase, which means a need to provide more food and more hands to help stock that food,” said Cassie Rudd, development and communication manager with FISH, a food pantry.

Marlene Ashworth, leadership development manager at Clark County Food Bank, said volunteers are contributing to ending hunger in the community.

“I am continually impressed about how this community comes together to serve together,” she said.

The following are some places that need volunteers, specific donations or gifts this time of year.


Share is a nonprofit that operates several homeless shelters in Clark County. Right now, Share needs volunteers to assist with its hot meals program (although its roster is full for Christmas Day).

Nonperishable foods, especially canned soup and chili, are needed for Share’s backpack program, which helps schoolchildren. With winter starting Thursday, Share also could use cold-weather gear, hand warmers, waterproof gloves, sleeping bags, blankets and men’s jeans.

To donate supplies, contact Molly Evjen, director of volunteers and community resources, at mevjen@sharevancouver.org to schedule a donation drop off or go to https://sharevancouver.org/contact/ to submit a contact form. To volunteer, register at https://sharevancouver.org/volunteer/.

Open House Ministries

Open House Ministries operates a family shelter in Vancouver, where more than half of the residents are homeless children. Its biggest needs right now are bottled water, copier paper, disinfectant wipes, potty-training pants, diapers (sizes 5 and 6), women’s underwear (sizes extra small to medium), men’s underwear, women’s deodorant, socks and canned soup.

These supplies can be dropped off at the shelter from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday at 900 W. 12th St. in Vancouver. To volunteer, go to https://www.sheltered.org/volunteer-opportunities/.

YWCA Clark County

YWCA Clark County provides resources and shelter to people experiencing domestic violence. This month, the SafeChoice Domestic Violence program needs twin size bedding, new kitchenware, kitchen towels, bath towel sets and strollers.

You can purchase these items for the program through its Amazon wish list on YWCA Clark County’s website.

Janus Youth

Janus Youth is a nonprofit operating youth shelters in Clark County.

Its homeless youth services need new adult-size underwear, bras, socks, sweatshirts, sweatpants, leggings, jeans (size 36 and up preferred), towels (large preferred), twin bed sheets, blankets, pillow cases and travel size toiletries.

To schedule a drop off, contact the Janus Access Center at 503-432-3986.

Children’s Center

The Children’s Center helps children in Clark County with mental health disorders or who have been sexually abused.

The center needs unused items, including large stuffed animals, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, dish soap, toilet paper, laundry detergent, protein bars, peanut butter crackers and fruit leather.

Donations can be dropped off at its office from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. at 13500 S.E. Seventh St. in Vancouver until Friday.

Friends of the Carpenter

The nonprofit is a place where people can shower, get haircuts and receive clothing and food. It needs coffee, tea bags, hot cocoa packets, powdered creamer, sugar, individually wrapped pastries/chips/granola bars/cookies, dishwasher pods, large body wash, large shampoo and boxer briefs (medium and large).

Donations can be dropped off at the center from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at 1600 W. 20th St. in Vancouver.

Outsiders Inn

Outsiders Inn operates a men’s shelter, two of Vancouver’s Safe Stay shelters and coordinates volunteers for winter overflow shelters.

People at its shelters need warm clothes, especially weather-proof jackets and coats, jeans, long underwear, tents and sleeping bags. Volunteers are needed for winter overflow shelters all days of the week.

Donations can be dropped off downstairs at St. Paul Lutheran Church seven days a week after 5 p.m. at 1309 Franklin St. in Vancouver. To volunteer, email waystohelp@outsidersinn.com.

Thrive 2 Survive

Thrive 2 Survive provides hot meals and resources to people experiencing homelessness. It will also take over managing the city of Vancouver’s Safe Park for people living in their vehicles Jan. 1.

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The nonprofit needs sleeping bags (rated 30 degrees and below if possible), hand and foot warmers, feminine hygiene supplies, socks, warm blankets, hand sanitizer, baby wipes (alcohol-free), toiletries (laundry detergent sheets, shampoo, conditioner) and roller bags. Volunteers are needed for several upcoming events in the next few months.

Email Thrive 2 Survive Director of Operations Erin Honan at erin@t2sdrive.com to volunteer or have Thrive 2 Survive staff pick up donations.

Living Hope Church

Living Hope Church operates one of Vancouver’s Safe Stay shelters, provides shelter during severe weather and gives food to people experiencing homelessness. Pastor Brian Norris said the church gives $10 gift cards to people in need.

These can be dropped off at the church any time before noon Sunday at 2711 N.E. Andresen Road.

Clark County Food Bank

Clark County Food Bank provides food for people in need through 130 distribution sites throughout the county.

Its most-wanted items are nonperishable foods, especially canned proteins, pastas, spices and olive oils. Volunteers are needed for its Fresh Alliance program to sort food donated by local grocery stores from 10 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday.

Food can be dropped off 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday at its warehouse located at 6502 N.E. 47th Ave., in Vancouver. To volunteer, sign up at https://www.clarkcountyfoodbank.org/food.

Meals on Wheels

Meals on Wheels People is a nonprofit that delivers meals to homebound elderly people and provides food at its dining centers.

Substitute delivery drivers are needed the most right now from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Thursday. To volunteer, go to https://mowp.volunteerhub.com/vv2/.

FISH of Vancouver

FISH of Vancouver provides emergency, nutritionally balanced food to people through its food pantry. It needs unopened and unspoiled food, including jams and jellies, coffee, canned meat, canned soup, baking ingredients, seasonings, spices and dried pasta.

FISH could use warm socks, gloves and hand warmers for its snack window. It’s also looking for consistent volunteers 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Donations can be dropped off from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday at its large warehouse door inside the gated parking lot at 906 Harney St., in Vancouver. FISH will be closed Dec. 25, Dec. 26 and Jan. 1. To volunteer, call or text FISH’s volunteer coordinator at meganb@fishvancouver.org or 360-566-3243.

Although there’s something about this time of year that makes people feel more generous, many of these organizations said they need help year-round.

“We see the need in our community not only during the holidays, but 365 days a year,” Rudd said. “We are always striving to meet it.”

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.