As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep the nation, many are finding they either have too much time on their hands or not enough. If you fall into the first category, you might consider volunteering to assist those who simply don’t have the time or resources to take care of themselves and their families. From parents struggling to make mortgage payments to teenagers stumbling through their online lessons, there’s no shortage of neighbors, friends and strangers in need of help.
With social distancing and state-wide lockdowns in place, getting involved is more difficult than ever. Still, there are dozens of ways you can help — and stay safe while you’re at it.
1. Make Face Masks
Many people have already either made or purchased reusable face masks. However, there are many others who continuously buy disposable ones or simply don’t have the money to buy a mask. To minimize the waste and the spread of the virus, consider making face masks for those in need. All you need is some cotton fabric, elastic, scissors, a needle and thread and a sewing machine. Donate the finished masks to anyone who may need them.
2. Send Encouraging Cards
Another simple way to volunteer your time involves sending encouraging cards. Handwrite some uplifting letters to seniors at your local retirement or nursing home. Send a few heartfelt cards to healthcare workers or local firemen. You could even send a care package to one of these facilities to brighten everyone’s day. Involve the kids and let them get creative with glitter, stickers and colorful drawings.
3. Partner With Affordable Housing
Due to the coronavirus and unemployment, roughly one in three Americans have accumulated debt in the form of missing rent and mortgage payments. One in five of them owe more than $1000. Moreover, within the next several months, researchers predict that 30 to 40 million could be at risk of eviction. To support these people, you might partner with your local affordable housing association. Donate to one of their low or mixed-income housing projects or volunteer your time to build.
4. Deliver Meals
Whether they have the virus and are quarantining or simply can’t make it out of the house, many people are struggling to feed themselves during the pandemic. To ensure these people are healthy and well-fed, you might consider volunteering with Meals on Wheels or a similar organization. Simply pick up meals at a central location and follow a route to deliver them to eight to 10 people in need in your local area.
5. Run Errands
Going to the grocery store isn’t an option right now for the elderly and the immunocompromised. Now, they must rely on their friends and family to deliver food, prescription medication, toiletries and other necessary items. Yet, many don’t have anyone to run errands for them. Volunteer your time to help these people — some of whom may live in your neighborhood. Leave postcards with your intent to help and contact information in their mailboxes and prepare to make some grocery runs.
6. Become a Virtual Tutor
Although some schools reopened their classrooms for in-person learning this fall, many others chose to go virtual. Now, children have very few options for extra assistance or supplemental learning, especially when most teachers didn’t have time to prepare the curriculum. Meanwhile, they struggle through their math homework and are unable to complete assignments without help after class. Support these students by becoming a virtual tutor. Offer your services for free through your kids’ school and help these kids succeed.
7. Provide Childcare
Nearly half of working families have lost the childcare they heavily relied upon before the pandemic. Now, with limited in-class schedules and day-care capacity, parents will have to be home with their children during the day. If they can’t, they’ll have to either find someone who can or quit their job. Help these parents out by providing free child care. Volunteer to watch your neighbor’s kids for the day or take turns playing nanny with a friend to relieve stress.
8. Volunteer for a Crisis Hotline
Many people are struggling with heightened levels of depression, anxiety and loneliness as the pandemic drags on and they’re looking for someone to talk to. Be the person they connect with by volunteering for a crisis hotline. Spend your time answering calls for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline or text encouragement to others through the Crisis Text Line. Some organizations even offer training so you know how to respond to those who need urgent help.
Safety Is the Top Priority
Many of the above volunteer options are pandemic-friendly and promote social distancing and overall safety. However, if you find you can’t volunteer without risking the health of yourself and others, the best thing you can do is stay home. Safety should always be your first priority and, by isolating yourself, you are acting in the interest of others and keeping them safe. In this case, inactivity may be the best kind of volunteerism.