Easy (and Safe) Ways to Volunteer During COVID-19

During this time of crisis, volunteering is more than a way to give back to the community. It's a vital way to help save lives. Here are some ways that you can help out while maintaining social distancing.

Volunteer written out

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The impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus) is being felt at every level throughout our country and the rest of the world. From closing schools to employees working from home to practicing social distancing that scientists agree will help slow the outbreak of the disease, it’s no understatement these first few months of 2020 have created a new way of life for millions of people.

What about those whose way of life typically involves serving their communities either locally or nationally through volunteerism? With some states issuing “shelter in place” orders and social distancing creating more space between people, it might seem more difficult for those looking for volunteering opportunities.

As more people find themselves in both financial and personal need during these times, local and national organizations continue to serve the needs of their communities and still offer opportunities to those looking to help others.1^Bernabe, Angeline Jane. “Ways to volunteer from home and how to help food banks during coronavirus,” GoodMorningAmerica.com, Mar. 23, 2020And, though the environment around COVID-19 can mean some changes in just how volunteering can take place, the unique problems created by this new world present some new opportunities to be there when your neighbors need you the most.

Here are some tips on how we can all continue to serve our world while making sure to do so safely during this public health crisis:

Donate to your local food bank

Food banks have long been on the frontline of meeting the needs of their communities. Now, with COVID-19 creating more concerns over food scarcity, food banks take on even greater importance. As the virus spreads, food banks could face additional pressures.2^Vinopal, Courney. “How to help others in the COVID-19 crisis,” PBS Newshour, Mar. 25, 2020. With virus-driven school closures and potential impacts to workers who might find themselves struggling to get by on fewer hours, the potential for increased demand on food banks looms large.

Donating money to a local food bank instead of just donating food also provides one of the easiest ways to impact a charity during this time, as most food banks prefer the flexibility that cash donations provide.3^LaMagna, Maria. “The best ways to donate to food banks,” Marketwatch.com, Dec. 24, 2015These donations allow food banks to choose the supplies that best meet the immediate needs of their communities and decide when and how to refresh their stocks instead of worrying about expiring food. And, while social distancing may have forced changes in how many volunteers can help prepare food bank distributions, the need for manpower to help sort and package food deliveries is still needed in food banks in every community.

Before volunteering to work on the premises at your local food bank, make sure that they are enforcing proper safety measures to protect volunteers from exposure to COVID-19.

Volunteer to help the elderly

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the elderly and those suffering chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and lung disease, to be at higher risk from COVID-19.4^Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “People who are at higher risk for severe illness.” 2020. These same people often find themselves with limited mobility and the personal impact of restrictions related to COVID-19 are magnified. To make sure the personal needs of high-risk elderly members of their communities don’t go unmet, those in lower-risk groups can reach out to their higher-risk neighbors and community members and assist in shopping for groceries, picking up prescriptions or just offering companionship with a phone call or card in a time where social isolation can have a negative impact on mental health.5^Arbaje, Alicia, M.D.. “Coronavirus and Caregiving for the elderly.” Hopkins Medicine.org. 2020. 

Because of the large number of high-risk patients that live there, senior living centers are more likely to be organizing their volunteer opportunities directly in order to make sure that needs are met in an organized and safe way. Reaching out directly to local senior centers in your community, or your county’s senior services agency, will provide an easy way to discover the best way for you to play a positive role in helping.6^Volunteers of America Senior Living, “Response to COVID-19 coronavirus.” 2020. 

Give blood

Medical services are already being greatly impacted by COVID-19, both in meeting the needs of testing those who possibly have the virus, as well as care for those with coronavirus complications. While some organizations can help provide the additional manpower needed to aid the logistics of this rush on hospitals, donating blood offers an easy way for volunteers to help hospitals facing shortages of blood supplies.

Many local blood banks are still open and taking appropriate staffing and health precautions during the COVID-19 outbreak and provide a valuable resource to the medical community as they meet an unprecedented public demand.7^American Red Cross, “What to know about the Coronavirus and Blood Donation.” 2020.

Where to start

As with most public service organizations, local chapters of national organizations, such as the United Way or Meals on Wheels, will help provide you with the ways in which you can best volunteer your time, money or other charitable donations. Volunteer.gov is another valuable resource for finding ways to volunteer in federal programs, such as the U.S. Corp of Army Engineers. For those looking for virtual options, visit VolunteerMatch.org.

Information on other volunteering opportunities with national organizations can be found here

Whatever way you choose to make a difference in your community, your involvement will help us all get through this unique and challenging time for our country.



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