Anyone old enough to have a memory of COVID-19 will remember the remarkable year 2020 has been—and the pandemic is not over yet. In case you’re not spending your quarantine learning a new language or playing the mandolin, you might be wondering how you can help others during this scary, unprecedented time. Giving your time, resources, and/or money is a therapeutic way to calm anxiety and make things easier for those in need at the same time. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Make Fabric Masks
The templates are everywhere from the local JoAnn’s craft store to community Facebook pages. As the shortage of PPE (personal protective equipment) hit the headlines, sewing machines got the dust knocked off them across the country. There still seems to be a need in most areas, although as medical grade masks become more readily available, homemade fabric masks are more commonly being distributed around the community for use when going into public than they are for doctors and nurses.
Medical facilities are also using them to hand out as patients enter the building, in an effort to protect everyone. Use good quality cotton for your masks, or 3D print them using this file approved by the U.S. National Institute of Health.
Make Plastic Protective Masks
Another piece of safety equipment in short supply are plastic protective masks, used by emergency and medical personnel to protect them from bodily fluids during procedures. Kits are now available so you can DIY these masks to aid those on the front lines. Alternately, you can create your own design using sheets of plexiglass.
Support Local Businesses
The local economy in your area is likely suffering from lack of customers. Some businesses are shut down altogether while others may offer curbside service or delivery. When the urge to eat out strikes, hit up your favorite mom and pop restaurant to see what services they are offering. Also look into local farmer stands. For repairs, reach out to sole proprietors for things like lawn mowers and bicycles.
Many will pick up from your home and deliver following the repair. For home improvement, rely on small, local providers for the lumber and paint you need, which will funnel money away from the large box stores who will likely weather the COVID storm better than the little guy. For gift giving, it might be the perfect time to send flowers, using a local florist. If businesses aren’t open, ask if they are still providing gift cards for when they are back up and running.
Restock Little Libraries
You’re busy cleaning out and organizing the house, while others are also trying to find ways to entertain themselves. Many neighborhoods have several homemade book cabinets called little libraries, as a way to share used books with others in your community. These operate with the take a book/leave a book philosophy.
Ask around or check out the listings online to locate your nearby little libraries and donate books you’re done with. Alternately, many little libraries have converted into food pantries for people to source meals from, so feel free to leave a food donation too. If you can't find one in your area, make your own little library and stock it up.
The need for blood donations does not go down in the face of a pandemic and organizers are still manning the stations for blood drives in nearly every community. Get online or check with local organizations to find the location for the next blood drive in your area. You could be saving a life.
If cooking is your form of stress release, make good use of your skills by donating meals. Check your area for organizations that deliver meals, offer drive-through service for truckers, or donate to those you know in need, such as families who typically rely on free meals at school.
Foster a Pet
Many animal control facilities had to close their doors to the public during the lockdowns, but that doesn’t mean there are any less animals to care for. Volunteers are still in need at the center and in many areas, foster families are needed to care for animals until they can resume adoptions. Additionally, you can build pet houses to donate.
While working the front lines and donating your time are both commendable, staying at home just might be the best thing you can do to help your family and your community. There is still much uncertainty around the coronavirus, so the only truly effective tool we currently have is physical distancing.
If you don’t need to be in public, stay home to reduce the risk of spreading the infection. When you do have to seek out essential services, wear a mask and gloves, sanitize as you go, and remain at least six feet from others at all times.
Check in with Neighbors and Friends
The technical age has provided many ways to keep in touch even when you can’t be together in person. If your parents are App savvy, download What’sApp, Snapchat, Marco Polo or other option that allows you to send messages back and forth. Take advantage of texting and choose video calls for face to face interaction. On the computer, rely on Skype or Zoom for another way to interact.
Isolation can be a catalyst for depression and anxiety so frequently checking on people who live alone, neighbors who may not be able to get out, and those who desperately seek social interaction could be just the pick-me-up they need to trudge through another day or week of social distancing.
Offer to help by mowing the neighbor’s yard, picking up groceries for someone else while you are out, or bring up the garbage bins from the street at your parent’s house across town.
Donate to Food Banks
Food banks are working hard to disperse food during the pandemic, and your donations of fresh, frozen, or canned foods are almost always welcome. Contact your local agency to find out what the current protocol is and ensure they are willing and able to accept what you have to offer. If you have the time, you can volunteer to help organize food donations and facilitate pick up events.
Support Local Nonprofits
In addition to food-related non-profits, there are many other community-based organizations seeking help and funding. If you can, find a few you're passionate about and donate time or money to help them achieve their goals.