- Jenica Barrett
Ways to Provide COVID-19 Help for Your Community
With Washington extending the stay-at-home order at least through May 4th, it looks like we haven't even come close to hitting the worst that coronavirus has to offer. It may be tempting to shelter yourself at home and simply watch Netflix (which is still okay at times!) but there are also many things you can do to help your community through this tough time.
Just because we aren't allowed to leave our homes, doesn't mean the generosity and support has to disappear. Take a minute to read over this list and see what you can do this week to provide even a little relief to those suffering the worst impacts. Those that are already marginalized and under-served by our system are the ones bearing the brunt of the health and economic effects. Do your part to lessen that, even just a little.
Finding Local Opportunities
Some of the links in this post are specific to the Seattle area where I am located. If you are in another city and want to find out if similar needs exist in your community, start googling. Your cities government webpage, school district's webpage, and local food bank's webpage may also be resources for finding ways to contribute.
1. Donate blood.
It may seem scary to voluntarily enter a "medical" facility right now. But donating blood is a vitally important activity and not something that we can stop doing! So if you are a relatively healthy individual who isn't in a high-risk category for COVID-19, please consider going to your local blood bank. Because of the high levels of fear around medical establishments, blood banks have seen massive drops in donations as donors cancel. Unfortunately, just because a pandemic hits doesn't mean the surgeries, car accidents, and blood transfusions stop. Sign up to donate blood this month!
2. Make masks for your local healthcare providers.
As crazy as it may seem, we are at the point where hospitals are enlisting the help of community members to sew masks. Here in Seattle Providence Hospital launched a 100 Million Masks campaign, providing the materials for volunteers to make sets of 100 masks at home. Soon afterwards though they updated the campaign saying that they received support from local manufacturers to complete the masks and no longer needed volunteers (but it was still a huge deal!).
In Seattle, groups like Seattle Southend SEWers in the Covid19 Mask Making Effort on Facebook are making hundreds of masks each week and delivering them to shelters, nursing homes, and other crucial services in the area.
Many other cities and communities around the country have banned together to make surgical grade masks for hospitals and many others are starting to make them out of cloth. Some have even begun 3D printing masks in their basement and local libraries! These masks may be disposable, but we must recognize that the health of our communities is a bigger issue than the waste we may be making in the process of keeping people safe.
3. Deliver groceries to those in your community who are at high-risk.
Many people in your community who are at high risk should not be leaving their homes, even to buy groceries. Unfortunately, grocery delivery can come at a price which these people may not be able to (and shouldn't have to) pay. If you are able to offer these individuals your time, they would greatly appreciate it! Here in Seattle, food banks, 350.org, and COVID19 Mutual Aid are all working to arrange grocery delivery.
For those of you feeling trapped inside your homes, this may also give you a sense of person and a very valid reason for going outside. It's important though that you are healthy and follow the precautions laid out strictly to make sure you don't do more harm than good and get anyone sick.
4. Volunteer to distribute food at local distribution points.
Many organizations are still offering food to community members which include school lunches and free meals. It's important that these groups continue to receive support so our neighbors can be fed. Consider reaching out to one of the groups in your neighborhood and volunteering your time. Schools, food banks, and charities may still be hosting mobile meal distribution sites. Someone has to be out there doing it. Why not you?
These organizations also need financial donations. With individual donations of canned food and produce dropping, most of the food they are distributing will have to be purchased. Your contribution can go a long way to feeding those in your community! I just donated financially to Food Lifeline in Seattle.
5. Spend time translating documents and informational handouts.
If you speak another language, we could use you right now! With new information being released daily, there are many people left without up-to-date information because it's not available in their language. Think about the information going around about testing, symptoms to watch for, activities to do with your kids, how to get free internet and who to call if you're being evicted.
COVID19 Mutual Aid is a group here in Seattle providing support and I have helped, in a small way, translate some of their social media posts into Spanish. I am also going to work on transcribing webinars from a local legal assistance agency. If you speak another language, especially those that are not as common, please reach out to your local group to see if they need support! I found these opportunities at the United Way of King County website.
6. Sign petitions and call your government representatives!
With unprecedented numbers in job loss and business closures, our government needs to provide direct support and action. There are a variety of petitions you can sign that include demanding a rent freeze, pressuring congress to pass a Green Stimulus Bill, and taxing corporations like Amazon. These can be done from the safety of your home and therefore are ideal for anyone, no matter whether or not you are high risk.
For a list of petitions to sign, see our previous post on ways to provide support without leaving your home.
7. Take care of your mental health (and that of your family).
Our mental health is vital during this time. Especially as we don't currently know how long this will go on, it's important to maintain some level of balance. I, personally, am struggling with this and have reached out to a counselor. I highly encourage you to do the same if you are feeling overwhelmed!
Take a minute to also talk to your family about what is going on. If you have children, there are some helpful articles that address ways you can discuss this pandemic with them and create a safe space to talk about their feelings.
8. Donate your masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer.
If you were one of the many people caught up in the scary news when coronavirus was first spreading and bought an abundant amount of masks, it's time to give those back. I can't tell you exactly how many masks or gloves to keep on hand, but I know that you don't need ten boxes of 50 gloves each. The hospitals DO though. So reach out to any of your local medical centers and find out how you can drop off your extra supplies. Don't hoard more than you are truly going to need, because other people's lives are at risk right now because of a lack of personal protective equipment.
9. Don't waste food. Give it away.
We don't know yet how many people will lose their jobs because of coronavirus or how bad the economic collapse will be. I do know, though, that families in my community are already struggling to pay bills and put food on the table. So now is definitely not the time to be wasting any food you buy! We waste 1/3 of the food purchased in our homes because we let it rot before consuming it - an absolutely wasteful and self-ish act.
Spend some time this week going through your cupboards and fridge shelves. If there is canned food that you won't eat and that is only slightly past its' expiration date, donate it! Bring it to your local food bank; put it in a little free library on the street; or simply set it out on the sidewalk on a table.
If you have leftovers, eat them. If you have fruit or veggies getting old, eat them or freeze them. Share food with neighbors. Offer it up on Buy Nothing or OLIO if they are still running. PLEASE, don't let food sit in your trash can when someone could be eating it.
10. Share information about local resources.
Many community members may not have access to information regarding financial assistance, food distribution locations, and legal support. Here in King County, volunteer to phone bank community members to share with them vital information.
If you are part of a group online, share maps of food distributions sites. You should also publish resources on your private Facebook and Instagram accounts as you never know who might need them. If you know of a friend or family member who is severely impacted by coronavirus, call them and offer your support in connecting them with resources. Make sure they know how to apply for unemployment and receive any government assistance. There is a lot of information being passed around - so make sure it gets to the right people!
11. Most importantly - STAY HOME!
Unless you are a healthcare worker, donating blood, delivering essential items, or purchasing essential items for yourself, stay home. Don't visit friends. Don't host parties. Don't invite over your relatives. The U.S. now has more cases than any other country in the world and doesn't appear to be stopping the spread anytime soon. We NEED to enact strict social distancing measures and every time we break those rules, someone else out there is probably breaking them too. So pressure your friends to stay home and don't let your parents leave the house for bridge club.