Big and Small Ways You Can Help Your Community During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Over the past few months, COVID-19 has come to overwhelm all aspects of American life. As citizens, it is our responsibility to stay informed while also adhering to any shelter in place directives and practicing the social distancing measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. But, aside from ensuring your own safety, there are actions you can take to help those who are most vulnerable right now.

People are under an unusual amount of stress during this time. The CDC notes that people could be experiencing sleeplessness, trouble concentrating, or worsening chronic health conditions just from the amount of pressure they feel about the virus. Lack of resources, income, and uncertainty about the future certainly doesn’t help.

Take a look at some of the options below for safe, healthy ways you can support your community. You can do many of these things—such as donating to organizations that help low-income folks—without even having to leave your house.

Keep washing your hands, avoid touching your face, and do something good:

Donate blood and plasma.

While the American Red Cross has been able to meet immediate needs, the organization is still encouraging people to keep donating in order to ensure a consistent supply throughout the pandemic.

However, the Red Cross is also now looking for people who have fully recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma to help current patients. “People who have fully recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies in their plasma that can attack the virus,” the website states. “This convalescent plasma is being evaluated as treatment for patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections, or those judged by a healthcare provider to be at high risk of progression to severe or life-threatening disease.” Find out if you’re eligible to give and how to do so here.

Give to food banks, delivery services, and relief funds.

Feeding America, a national hunger-relief organization, is accepting donations in order to help give food to those who need it most, including children who usually get healthy meals from schools that are now closed. You can donate here or use this directory to look for local food banks and soup kitchens in your area. Blessings in a Backpack and No Kid Hungry are also working to feed children who are out of school.

Save the Children, a humanitarian aid organization, has set up a relief fund to “help children in unsafe households, help protect and prepare doctors and health clinics in refugee camps, and help support distance learning in the face of school closures.”

You can also consider giving to organizations like Meals on Wheels, which helps deliver food to seniors who may be self-isolating in order to stay healthy. The World Central Kitchen is delivering meals and feeding frontline workers. Baby2Baby, a non-profit that gives basic necessities to children living in poverty, has also asked for donations. If you’d rather, you can even purchase supplies for Baby2Baby to distribute on its Amazon page.

Additionally, Charity Navigator has put together a list of trustworthy organizations, if you’re looking for other places to donate.

Support local workers.

Local businesses are struggling to stay afloat as non-essential workers have been ordered to stay at home. One way to help is to purchase a gift card to your favorite local restaurant or coffee shop with plans to use it in the future, or see if a spot sells any merchandise you can buy. Many local businesses have also set up funds for their employees, if you’d like to donate more directly. The Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation has created a fund with a clear breakdown of how money is being allocated for individual workers, non-profit organizations, and zero-interest loans for restaurants.

Other small things you can do: If you had tickets to a show at a non-profit theater that got cancelled, consider donating the money you were refunded. You can also donate directly to the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS’ COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund, which is helping those working in entertainment.

If you’re in need of books during your self-isolation, purchase from an independent bookstore that’s offering no-contact delivery. You can also support writers by donating to places like the PEN America Writers’ Emergency Fund.

If you need to go to a grocery store, try visiting your local Asian market, which might have less customers due to racism surrounding the virus.

And if you have to cancel an appointment with someone who relies on in-person services (a house cleaner, a nanny, etc.) and you’ve already budgeted the money, pay them anyway. The National Domestic Workers Alliance has also created a care fund to provide assistance to home care workers, nannies, and house cleaners. There’s even an emergency relief GoFundMe for sex workers in New York City to assist those who are seeing a decreasing in work due to the virus.

Be kind to your community.

As news around the virus continues to unfold, reach out to anyone in your life who might be at high risk, whether they are elderly or immunocompromised, to see if you can safely pick up food or medicine for them or help them schedule a delivery online. You can also reach out to any of your friends or family who might have mental health issues that have been exacerbated by the new coronavirus to see how you can be of assistance. If you want help outside your immediate neighborhood, consider becoming a remote crisis counselor through Crisis Text Line.

VICE has compromised a variety of resources for those who are looking to reach out to their neighbors, including a guide to creating a Neighborhood Pod as well as a sample letter to invite people to create a support network so everyone can communicate about their needs.

Also, be sure not to hoard supplies so that those who are sick, and those who can’t afford to purchase anything extra, can still get what they need. Staying safe and healthy is a community effort.

Madison is a staff writer at ELLE.com, covering news, politics, and culture.
Hilary Weaver is a freelance writer based in New York who writes about politics, queer issues, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, and every woman the Queen has ever made a dame.

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