Nurturing Neighbors organizers, pictured from left, Donna Seagroves, Sharon Slagle, Sarah Schults, and Jamie Rice meet to plan a Jan. 31 event at Erwin Town Hall. The new program will bring volunteers together with those suffering from severe illnesses. (Contributed photo)

By Richard Rourk

Unicoi County is filled with an unselfish spirit and there is a group of women that exemplifies that altruistic characteristic.

In this spirit, residents Sarah Shults, Jamie Rice, Sharon Slagle and Donna Seagroves started a program called Nurturing Neighbors. The program links volunteers to help people suffering from severe illnesses and their caregivers by utilizing the volunteers’ specific skill sets.

“We will be setting up community meal trains, help with rides to medical appointments, send cards, well check phone calls, help with grocery shopping, knitting hats, childcare and we are even creating a wig closet right here in Unicoi County for cancer patients,” Rice told The Erwin Record.

Nurturing Neighbors was formed after the organizers saw a need for the program.

“It seems that every day, someone in our community is diagnosed with a debilitating illness, specifically cancer,” Rice said. “Just in December alone I heard of four people right here in Erwin who had been diagnosed with this terrible disease.”

The organizers understand that everyone’s needs differ.

“I am a cancer survivor myself and I know that everybody’s journey is different,” Shults, the chief organizer of Nurturing Neighbors, told The Erwin Record.

The group has established a Facebook page and formed a survey to link volunteers to the community’s needs. The result was overwhelming, according to Shults.

“Within two weeks we had over 150 surveys submitted,” Shults said.

There are multiple ways to help, from knitting hats, to sending encouraging cards or even fixing dinner for your sick neighbor. Shults hopes those that are sick or their caregivers will reach out and accept the help of the volunteer group.

“Sometimes, if we are proud, we are denying someone the opportunity to help and to feel like they are making a contribution, and that is important too,” Shults said.

If you are interested in volunteering, please visit Nurturing Neighbors on Facebook and fill out a brief survey, which takes less than two minutes. You are also invited to attend the upcoming Nurturing Neighbors Meet and Greet.

“We will be having an informational public meeting on Thursday, Jan. 31, at Erwin Town Hall at 6 p.m. and would like to invite anyone interested,” Rice told The Erwin Record.