To prevent the further spread of COVID-19, most Americans are adjusting to a new reality, shut out of schools, workplaces, restaurants and entertainment venues for the foreseeable future. But we don’t have to feel helpless during this prolonged period of uncertainty. While hospital and healthcare professionals, grocery workers and others continue to provide essential services, we can all do our part to support workers on the frontlines and offer some relief to those hit hardest by the loss of economic activity.
At minimum, everyone can help by following local, state and federal guidelines around safe social distancing. But if you’re looking to do more, consider giving back in one or more of the following ways:
Prioritize Monetary Donations
Nationwide efforts to prevent the spread of the novel and highly contagious coronavirus have put millions of Americans out of work, further threatening already vulnerable low-income communities. In times like these, more people rely on food banks and community soup kitchens. But with organizations shut out of buildings or managing smaller-than-average levels of staff or volunteers, many food-based nonprofits are asking donors to give money rather than food.
Nourish.NJ, a community soup kitchen and farmer’s market in Morristown, New Jersey, has suspended its sit-down meals and free farmer’s markets, offering bagged lunches for pick up to those in need. Instead of food donations, Nourish.NJ is asking for financial donations, which will “allow us to get the food and supplies we need, when we need them, and get them to our guests as quickly as possible.”
Donate to a Special Fund
While many businesses have been hurt by mass closures, industries like restaurants, bars and hotels are struggling the most. To support these workers, many of whom have little to no savings, some nonprofits are teaming up with businesses to set up special funds that target specific industries and employees.
Consider donating to a special fund like the Restaurant Strong Fund, a partnership between the Greg Hill Foundation and Samuel Adams, which has seeded the fund with $100,000 and agreed to match up to an additional $100,000 in donations. To date, the Restaurant Strong Fund has raised over $450,000 of its $500,000 goal and aims to provide a $1,000 grant to all eligible full-time restaurant workers in the Boston area.
Food and household supplies aren’t the only necessities in short supply. With the cancellation of thousands of corporate and group blood drives around the country, the American Red Cross is experiencing severe shortages.
If you’re healthy and haven’t traveled to a high-risk country or had contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you could be eligible to donate blood. While some states have instituted mandatory shelter-in-place orders, blood donation is still permitted under these rules. To further prevent the spread of COVID-19, the American Red Cross has taken steps to enhance safety protocols—taking people’s temperatures before they enter buildings, increasing cleaning frequency and following social distancing guidelines, among others.
Follow Your Passion
Many people are using extra time at home during this crisis to follow their passions and help their communities in new ways, including volunteering to help subsidize and deliver food and supplies to the elderly and immunocompromised, fostering shelter animals and sewing masks for health-care workers. If you’re healthy and not in a high-risk group, consider volunteering to Meals on Wheels, which delivers free meals to homebound senior citizens. With many regular volunteers unable to work because of age or medical conditions, Meals on Wheels chapters across the country are actively seeking volunteer replacements. As with blood donation and grocery shopping, Meals on Wheels is considered essential and exempt from all shelter-in-place orders.
It’s also important to continue supporting your go-to charities as well. Some nonprofits are already struggling to survive as resources have shifted, fundraising events have been cancelled, and donors have already felt the effects of our new reality on their wallets. If you’re in a position to do so, don’t skip your donations to the nonprofits you regularly support. Every dollar makes a difference.
No Act is Too Small
Throughout every tragedy, the American people have come together to support those in need. From Pearl Harbor to 9/11 to COVID-19, we’ve seen the best of humanity in the worst of circumstances. In times of crisis, every act, no matter how small, can produce a ripple effect. During the past few weeks, Americans have found creative ways to give back to their communities at large. Countless companies and organizations, from beauty salons to museums, schools, and universities, have donated medical and cleaning supplies to the hospitals and medical providers on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. Even financial companies like Goldman Sachs, Nasdaq and Mastercard have donated stockpiles of face and respirator masks to the Greater New York Hospital Association, which represents more than 160 hospitals and health systems.
You can help simply by buying gift cards at restaurants which allows owners to continue to keep paying staff and bills. Or ask your elderly or at-risk neighbor if you can pick up food while you’re at the store. Every little gesture will go a long way to bringing comfort to those struggling the most.
While we may be closed within our homes, we don’t have to be cut off from our communities. Giving back is good for both giver and receiver, helping us assert some sense of control during these uncertain times.
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