Thanks to COVID-19, everything’s canceled. It might seem that way when there is a lack of calendar listings in the newspaper. But one thing that isn’t canceled is Roanoke Valley Gives, an annual online fundraiser that more than 150 nonprofits are participating in.

The event begins at midnight and ends at 11:59 p.m. on March 18. Participating Franklin County charities include Children’s Assistive Technology Service, Ferrum College, Franklin County Humane Society, Franklin County Family YMCA, Free Clinic of Franklin County, Healing Strides of Virginia, Lake Christian Ministries, the Agape Center of SML, Roanoke Valley Horse Rescue, SML Good Neighbors, Southern Virginia Child Advocacy Center and Stepping Stone Mission of Franklin County.

Created in 2015 by Community Foundation Serving Western Virginia, which serves the cities of Martinsville, Roanoke and Salem, as well as Alleghany, Botetourt, Craig, Franklin, Henry, Patrick and Roanoke counties, the one-day event can be a much-needed boon for these nonprofits as philanthropic giving can typically wane this time of year.

The 24-hour giving period is a lot like a horse race with cash prizes awarded to small, medium and large charities. There are added bonus incentives to give during certain hours of the campaign, too — the night owl runs from 2 to 5 a.m., the lunch break from noon to 1 p.m. and the coffee break between 3 and 4 p.m., among others. The minimum donation amount per charity is $10, and donors can choose to give to multiple charities during the event.

In the five years of Roanoke Valley Gives, it’s certainly helped those nonprofits that have participated. Children’s Assistive Technology Service, which provides adaptive equipment to children with disabilities, raised money to purchase a van to deliver equipment. The Agape Center, which offers food, furniture and clothing to those in need, purchased a forklift with the $12,000 it raised last year and a walk-in refrigerator the year prior. Others count on these funds to help offset emergency repair expenses or boost operating coffers.

Nonprofits coax donors into giving by spreading the word any way they can, typically through social media posts and email marketing. Unfortunately, many charities fell far short of their fundraising goals when Facebook crashed most of the day last year.

“We lost the whole day when Facebook went down,” said Pat Muncy, founder of Roanoke Valley Horse Rescue. Their original goal had been $50,000 but because of the outage, the group only raised about $10,000. This year Muncy set the rescue’s goal at $30,000.

While there had been plans to have a giving celebration at the Franklin County Family YMCA’s Smith Mountain Lake location as part of the event, COVID-19 shut that down. But maybe, as so many of us are self-isolating at home in front of our computers, we can open our wallets and give generously to the charities that serve our community every day.

If you can do your part, please do. Others in the community may not be able to. Or as Booker T. Washington once said, “If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.”

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