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Set Your Sights on Volunteering in Elizabeth City

Residents and newcomers find fulfilling connections here, thanks to people's willingness to help their neighbors.

By Patsy B. Weiler on February 21, 2022

Archery at a YMCA summer camp in Elizabeth City, NC
YMCA of South Hampton Roads

Living in a quiet North Carolina city near the coast was not on Los Angeles native Abbey Lauten’s radar. But life threw her a curveball of Southern sunshine.

For the last three years, Lauten has served as director of children and adult education outreach at First United Methodist Church and is an established resident of Elizabeth City, NC, a place where she loves “the simplicity of life in the charming and friendly town.”

One of her main responsibilities is overseeing La Casa, an after-school tutoring program for English language learning students, where volunteers assist with homework and make new friends.

“The willingness of people to step up and volunteer is a testament to the amazing individuals who want to be involved and contribute, especially retirees. I also have students and educators who help.”

Abbey Lauten

“I love my job because I get to interact with the world in a relatively small town and create awareness of our diverse population,” says Lauten, who volunteered with La Casa while visiting family in Elizabeth City after her college graduation. “I have a group of really faithful volunteers. They are committed to the students and their families. We make an effort to attend the kids’ events, and during Christmas, they donated items for gift packages. Beyond the homework, the goal is about building relationships.

Discovering a social network of young professionals in the city has been a bonus for the 25-year-old. “Ghost Harbor Brewing Company is a local watering hole in downtown for my age, and we get together for trivia nights and listening to local bands,” she says.

A Habitat for Humanity build in Elizabeth City
Elizabeth City Habitat for Humanity

Volunteering in Elizabeth City

Bill Blake, executive director of the Albemarle Area United Way, sees firsthand the positive impact helping hands make in the area.

“This is a giving community,” Blake says. “We have about 75 charities providing services and approximately 1,500 volunteers involved with them, many of whom give their time to multiple organizations. We know one in four persons, or roughly 10,000 individuals, are assisted by a service provided by a local nonprofit. Volunteering is a great way to help others and make new friends.”

A few of the organizations with their doors open to volunteers include American Red Cross-Greater Albemarle Area, Elizabeth City Habitat for Humanity, Albemarle Family YMCA, Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Senior Center, the Salvation Army of Elizabeth City and Boys & Girls Clubs of the Albemarle.

Serving at the YMCA in Elizabeth City, NC
YMCA of South Hampton Roads

Feeding the Hungry in Elizabeth City

One local nonprofit with a history of feeding the region’s hungry for 40 years is Food Bank of the Albemarle.

“Getting involved with the food bank offers a rewarding experience where each volunteer’s efforts help feed people every day,” says Brian Gray, communications and volunteer manager. “Our volunteers are essential members and assist with bagging, packing, sorting and boxing of food for distribution to helping with fundraising events and more.”

“Everyone seems to truly care about each other,
and there is a lot of support.”

Diana Flippo

Diana Flippo, a recent transplant from New Jersey to Elizabeth City, is the new director of development for the food bank. “Where I moved from is a small, beautiful town surrounded by two rivers and a quarter-mile from the ocean,” Flippo says. “I enjoy being in a city that is being revitalized. There are a lot of new businesses and a very welcoming community.”

In her new job, she has a bit of a crow’s nest perspective of seeing how the paths of volunteering and making new friends intersect — and likes the view. “Since I am so new, I am just beginning to get involved,” she says. “I am excited to try the different restaurants and stores. Also, I am still very close to water.”

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