The Gift of Giving Back

Local nonprofits work year round to take care of our neighbors in need. They can’t do it without help — donations of money, supplies, and time — from area businesses, residents, and civic groups. Let’s close out the year (and begin a new one) with donations that will directly bolster the local community. Here are a few options from the many that serve our area.

Sleep in Heavenly Peace

You probably won’t catch Zella Bracy resting. The co-president of Fuquay-Varina’s chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace (SHP) announced her professional retirement and founded a nonprofit organization on the very same day. However, she has dedicated the last three years to ensuring local children have adequate rest.


  • Twin-sized sheets, especially solid, neutral colors
  • Twin-sized bed-in-a-bag sets
  • Financial donations for pillows
  • Volunteers for bed building and delivery

“Building beds for kids that don’t have beds is our main mission and task,” Bracy says.

Statistics show that 2% to 3% of the population are children in “bedlessness” — sleeping on floors, couches, or doubled up with parents or siblings — which equates to approximately 1,500 in Fuquay-Varina alone, not to mention the surrounding communities that SHP also serves, as far as Dunn and Sanford.

“Young students need sleep, good sleep, not in mom’s bed with the TV on or a phone lit up. A bed is a safe, comfortable place to rest. Every child should have one,” Bracy says.

SHP hosts bed-building events about once a month, where volunteers come together to turn lumber into twin-sized beds, completing as many as 50 beds in a day.

“It’s amazing what happens in an hour and a half,” Bracy says. “Volunteers walk away knowing they made a major difference.” Make sure to check the calendar on the organization’s website to see which builds have open volunteer slots. Volunteers are also needed for monthly bed deliveries.


SHP doesn’t currently host build events during the coldest or hottest months of the year. The chapter is searching for a large indoor space that could accommodate the bed-building process during these times. Know of an available facility? Contact the Fuquay-Varina chapter through their website.

The bed frame isn’t the only component provided by SHP. A new mattress, sheets, comforter, and pillow are always included in bed deliveries, which means bedding drives and donations are essential to the organization and the community it serves.

“A $30 bed-in-a-bag is an easy way to make a difference,” Bracy says.

Pawfect Match Rescue and Rehabilitation

As a foster-based rescue organization, Pawfect Match relies heavily on its network of partner families and volunteers to care for the dogs, puppies, and cats — more than 700 per year — that come through its program looking for forever homes.


  • Financial donations to cover veterinary expenses and preventative medications (heartworm, flea & tick)
  • Good-quality dog food (such as Purina Pro Plan)
  • Puppy pads
  • Chew toys and bones
  • Foster and vacation foster households

“Our people are our most valuable commodity,” says Debbie Sandlin, director of Pawfect Match. “If we have the people, we can get the job done.”

For each animal receiving care, Pawfect Match covers medical expenses (to the tune of $250,000 in 2022), spay and neuter surgery, food, a crate, and toys.

“We try to make sure the foster family is not impacted financially,” says Sandlin.

Despite having generous local support, the need for fosters and financial donations remains ever present, especially as rural rescues are overworked and overfull, funneling more animals to Pawfect Match.

“We always need more foster families and vacation fosters, people to help with transport and intake (of new animals), even to hold leashes and help set up at adoption events. We have events almost every weekend,” says Sandlin.

Guardian Angel Thrift

You might not think a few dollars spent on glassware and hand-me-down sweaters at Guardian Angel Thrift adds up to much, but, since 1999, the organization has raised and donated $3 million to Alzheimer’s research.


  • Furniture and household items
  • Framed art and decor
  • Shoes and clothing in good condition
  • Working electronics
  • Thrift store and event volunteers

“We donate about $100,000 annually,” says Executive Director Lynette Somers. “The funds stay in North Carolina and fund seed grants to help young or new researchers get interested in brain health and begin to work for the cause.”

“The only way to cure this disease is through research, to find out what’s causing it and how to stop it,” says Somers.

Support this mission with donations in good condition, and by shopping at the Fuquay-Varina and Apex locations of Guardian Angel Thrift. Furniture, decor, kitchen items, wall art, clothing, and shoes are among the best sellers.

“We always need volunteers in the Apex and Fuquay thrift stores, sorting bags of donations, testing electronics, and stocking the floor,” says Somers.

The organization employs about 40 staff members to operate the thrift stores, frequently hiring senior adults and disadvantaged individuals looking for employment, sometimes with physical handicaps or mental health challenges that have prevented other employment.

“We need your donations to cover the research funding and pay the bills, like rent, energy, and salaries. Nonprofits have bills like everyone else,” says Somers.

2024 will mark the 25th anniversary of Guardian Angel Thrift, so stay tuned for special events and celebrations to commemorate the milestone.

“There are very few people who have not been touched by Alzheimer’s. It impacts the entire family,” says Somers.

742 N. Main St., Fuquay-Varina
710 Laura Duncan Road, Apex

Zach’s Toy Chest

“Toys at the hospital are not a luxury, they are a necessity,” says Holly Schwab, founder of Zach’s Toy Chest, who learned this lesson firsthand while her infant son, Zach, underwent 12-hour cancer treatments at a hospital with no toys or distractions for the young patients.


  • New, unwrapped toys (especially for infants and teenagers)
  • Financial donations to purchase requested items
  • Volunteers and sponsors for the annual golf tournament (coming April 2024)

Fourteen years later, Zach’s Toy Chest has donated over 140,000 new toys to hospitals and clinics across North Carolina.

“Toys play a part of the healing process. Kids recover faster and better when they aren’t scared and anxious,” says Schwab, a Holly Springs resident. Monthly deliveries ensure that new toys are available year round, helping patients feel soothed and comforted, and bond with hospital staff.

Donations for teenagers are in most limited supply — wireless headphones, funny hats and socks, adult coloring books with colored pencils, slime, lotion, and chapstick are always welcome, says Schwab, as well as gift cards to Starbucks and Chick-fil-A.

UNC Hospital even has a Starbucks on site, says Schwab, allowing teens to meet visitors for a Frappuccino.

“It produces a sense of normalcy for them. That’s what a normal teenager would be doing,” says Schwab. “$5 or $10 gift cards can change a whole day for a teenager.”

Wishlists organized by age group are posted on the Zach’s Toy Chest website, and toys can be shipped directly to the organization.

Holiday Concert Benefit Series

The Origin, a Raleigh-based classic rock cover band, will perform a five-show tribute series to Trans-Siberian Orchestra benefiting Zach’s Toy Chest this month. The band’s 12 musicians volunteer their time and talents so more of the event’s proceeds can benefit ZTC.

Enjoy The Origin’s take on signature Trans-Siberian Orchestra style with a holiday concert to remember.

12/2: Locked & Loaded Bar & Grill, Garner
12/10: Lincoln Theatre, Raleigh
12/12: Fuquay-Varina Arts Center, Fuquay Varina
12/16: Holly Springs Cultural Center, Holly Springs
12/22: The Orpheum Theater, Oxford

Holly Springs Food Cupboard

“Every time you go to the grocery store, think about the family that is not able to go to the store. Pick up a little something for that family that needs,” suggests Pat Haggard, executive director of the Holly Springs Food Cupboard.


  • Nonperishable, shelf-stable items (particularly pasta sauce, canned fruit, beans, vegetables, jelly, crackers, canned pop-top meats)
  • Financial donations to buy fresh produce
  • Food drive hosts
  • Seasonal volunteers for the Food Cupboard garden

Donations can be delivered to the Food Cupboard on Mondays from 9–11 a.m, or to one of several drop-off sites around Holly Springs, including:

  • Bless Your Heart Boutique
  • Coastal Credit Union
  • Holly Springs Town Hall
  • Prana Yoga
  • SupaBowlz Cafe

Current food distribution has risen 50% from the previous year, Haggard says, putting a strain on the Cupboard’s resources.

“We depend on a constant flow (of donations) from our community. Food drives — big and small — every piece of it goes together to make it happen,” says Haggard.

For Thanksgiving, the Food Cupboard supplied 450 turkey dinners with all the fixings to households in need. And for Christmas, the organization will distribute special meal gift cards on top of their regular weekly distribution. Gift cards eliminate the challenges of food storage (think hundreds of Christmas hams) and accommodating dietary restrictions.

“People are thinking about meals more during the holidays. Families naturally think about donations more,” says Haggard, acknowledging the generous support of the community from October through December, when the Food Cupboard receives the majority of its annual donations.

But the need remains all year long, making each neighborhood, Scouting, or school food drive a vital piece of the puzzle.

“All it takes is one emergency, and all of a sudden there is no money for food,” Haggard says.

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