Maintaining Human Connection Through COVID


Maintaining Human Connection Through Volunteerism During COVID...

Meet Allen Foiles, FIRST at Blue Ridge Case Manager by day and active community volunteer on the weekends. As a long-time volunteer, he jumped in after COVID-19 hit to ask where he could help lend a hand, finding Salvation Army and their need for support cooking and serving meals for the community. 

"When COVID-19 came up and the other events that I'm usually a part of were cancelled, I knew there was probably a need where I could go help the community and hang out with cool people safely," he said. "I was looking at the Hands On website and saw that there was a need for help in the kitchen with the Salvation Army so I signed up for that, and put on a costume and just had fun helping and meeting people at the same time."

Foiles said he's enjoyed being a part of an active Zoom community, connecting with so many people online through the crisis, yet there's a missing component in the everyday human connection, which he sought to fill through volunteering. And he wasn't alone as 1,179 volunteer needs were filled from March 16 to June 1, 2020 at nonprofits throughout Buncombe County through our Hands On Asheville-Buncombe volunteer center. 


Meeting New People, Helping Others, and Having Fun

As a case manager at a Peer-Led Modified 12-Step Therapeutic Community east of Asheville, helping others is something Allen does every day, yet he's hesitant to be the one in the spotlight. And as someone who arrived in Asheville to begin his own journey in recovery, he says that others have given so freely to him in that process that he only hopes his service in community allows him to do the same. "One of the things I realized early on is that when I didn't have money to donate, that I do have energy, enthusiasm, and like to think I have a big heart," he said. "So if I can do one thing for a few hours that allows me to get out and meet new people and lets me help others why wouldn't I do that?"

When it was time for Allen to spread his wings again after re-evaluating what was important to him in recovery, he said he returned to the connection in volunteerism, something he valued in earlier years of service at one of the top tennis tournaments in Ohio. "All those years of volunteering taught me what it takes to put on an any kind of event--whether it's WNC Bridge Foundation's Drums & Dragons (an event he's volunteered with several years running) or feeding people at the Salvation Army (which he's been doing through COVID) or lending a hand at the Special Olympics and SoCon Basketball Tournament with the Asheville Buncombe Regional Sports Commission.

He says it all comes back to human connection and having fun (hence the rainbow wig while cooking)--from the people that show up to help alongside you to the vendors and sponsors and all of the other people you're meeting and spending time with. "We can all be safe and understand the seriousness of this situation and have fun," he says.

Find a Way to Connect in Community that Feels Good for You