How to help your community during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic

In times of uncertainty, pulling together to help is crucial to the health, well-being and stability of our local communities.

As the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has shown, some of our communities need help more than ever. And although it may seem daunting at first, there are plenty of ways to lend support, funds or even a helping hand in these trying times.

Don’t know where to start? Here’s a few ideas to get you going.

One of the first and best ways to help your local community is to be mindful of federal, state or local guidelines aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. This means avoiding congregating in groups larger than 10, staying home when sick, maintaining safe distances (i.e., social-distancing) when in public, and being mindful of any other ordinances or orders issued by health or government officials.

Volunteer

Organizations that feed and run errands for the elderly or otherwise unable are always seeking volunteers.

Meals on Wheels America, for instance, has said some of its programs are “desperately seeking volunteers” amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (At the moment, the organization says it is focusing its efforts on assigning volunteers to communities in the most urgent need.)

Feeding America, too, is seeking volunteers to help pack and organize groceries at its food banks and pantries. Be sure to check with your local food banks and help hotlines to see how they could best use your help.

Online communities are also cropping up in an effort to extend help where it’s needed most. By joining these online groups — sometimes called “caremongering” groups — community members can stay informed of the needs of neighbors, and offer to help where they can.

Be aware, however, that help should always be given in accordance with local, state and federal safety guidelines (and especially those concerning visits to the elderly, or those that might breach any “shelter-in-place” orders) to prevent putting people at further risk of illness.

Donate money, food or blood

If you’re unable to donate your time, many of those same organizations in your community will gladly accept financial support. Find reputable organizations in your neighborhood that are helping where it’s needed most. Your local food banks, too, are likely welcoming donations of canned or non-perishable items, as well as basic necessities.

Your nearby blood banks and hospitals are also in need of donations, according to a recent call from the U.S. Surgeon General.

“Social distancing doesn’t mean social disengagement,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams said in a press conference at the White House on Thursday. “So give blood today, you’ll feel good about it.”

Patronize your local restaurants

Restaurants are being hit hard amid the outbreak, with dozens of states banning in-person dining altogether — leaving some eateries struggling to pay bills and keep staff employed. In mid-March, the National Restaurant Association reported that the industry could lose nearly half of its 15.6 million workers and a quarter of annual sales during the COVID-19 crisis.

To help ensure your favorite local dining spot is safe, be sure to continue to patronize it in any way you can, by ordering takeout, delivery or even purchasing gift cards (if available) for a future date. Chefs and foodies have also organized petitions to ask the government to “Save America’s Restaurants” with emergency employment benefits for the nation’s food-service workers, among other relief efforts.

Your community may also be included in localized efforts to organize direct financial assistance for your favorite dining establishments.

Support essential workers

While non-essential workers may be working from home, or temporarily on leave, the essential workers who continue to trudge into work, day in and day out, need our support more than ever. Medical personnel, truck drivers, drive-thru workers, supermarket staffers, delivery drivers, social workers — these people are continuing to work for the benefit of our communities. Ask if they could use a meal, some coffee, a bus pass you no longer need — even a few kind words can go a long way.

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