3 Ways to Help Your Community Through the Coronavirus Outbreak

Helping others is one of the most efficient ways to take your focus off your own problems. Here's how to help during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A young woman bringing groceries to an older woman.

Image source: Getty Images

If this crisis has taught us anything so far, it's how interconnected we are. COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has affected us all. Many are looking for resources and relief. 

If you've been wondering about how you can pitch in to help others as we all work to get through this time, here are some ideas.

1. How to help cash-free

If you want to help but don't have extra money right now, that's okay. There are still many things you can do to help without spending a thing. 

  • Call a neighbor. If you're making a quick run to the store or having food delivered, call a neighbor to see if they need anything. Let them know that you're thinking of them, and invite them to call if they need help. 
  • Check on friends. As helpful as it may be for the greater good to shelter in place or self-quarantine, there is no denying that it can be isolating. If you have a friend who suffers from depression, has recently experienced a loss, or who otherwise needs a shoulder to lean on, be that person for them. Whether you use the phone, FaceTime, or Zoom, the effort you make may be precisely what they need to get through the day. 
  • Organize for later donation. If you have a bit of extra time on your hands, use it to go through the rooms of your home, including that basement or garage you've been meaning to organize. Decide what you absolutely want to keep, what is no longer usable and needs to be tossed, and what can be given to someone who needs it more than you do. You may not be able to make your actual donations until after shelter-in-place orders are lifted, but when that day comes, you'll be ready. 
  • Avoid hoarding. The news is full of stories about people filling shopping baskets with enough staples to carry them through a Siberian winter. If you have enough food and supplies to get you through for a week or two, leave the rest for the people shopping behind you. The kindest thing we can do right now is to remember that we are not the only ones in this situation. 
  • Don't buy WIC products. People who receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants & Children (WIC) can only use their benefits on specific brands and products. They know what they can buy by looking for the WIC sign or sticker on the product. If you see that an item is marked as a WIC product, pick up a similar item not designated for WIC recipients. You may have the option of buying a different size or paying a few pennies more, but many of those receiving WIC do not. 

2. How to help financially

If you're lucky enough to have a secure job, money in your bank account, and few financial concerns of your own, consider donating to those who are struggling to get by. 

  • Food banks: Given the millions of Americans out of work, there is sure to be a greater need for food assistance. Donating to nonprofits like No Kid Hungry, an organization that helps feed vulnerable children who depend on school lunches, Meals on Wheels, an organization focused on keeping older Americans fed, or your local food bank is a great way to make sure everyone has enough to eat. If you have a friend or relative without the funds to purchase groceries, consider giving to them directly. 
  • Shelters: Call your nearest homeless or domestic violence shelter to learn what they are in greatest need of. These shelters offer refuge to homeless Americans as well as victims of domestic abuse. You may find that what they're looking for can be ordered and shipped directly to them. 
  • Healthcare workers: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has an emergency response fund, designed to help Americans donate to their local health departments, provide protective gear for medical workers, and aid in global response efforts. 

3. Supporting others who give

We're not all fortunate enough to be able to shelter-in-place during the COVID-19 outbreak, and millions of Americans remain in the workplace to keep our country semi-operational until the threat passes. While this list is in no way comprehensive, it may remind you of others who are working through the crisis. Take the time to thank everyone who is carrying on in spite of potential exposure to the virus. If you're able, purchase a gift certificate or other small gift online, and remember to thank those who are working to maintain a semblance of normalcy. 

  • Medical personnel
  • Mail and delivery drivers
  • Warehouse workers
  • First responders
  • Animal shelter personnel
  • Retail workers
  • Airport personnel
  • Cleaning and janitorial staff

For most of us, these are uncharted waters, and the pandemic can feel overwhelming. One thing that can help is to take the focus off ourselves and consider how we can help others.

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