Over the course of the past few months, everyone from health care workers to grocery store employees have remained on the frontlines of response efforts during the coronavirus pandemic. There are currently millions of essential workers serving communities in the United States, and just as many at-risk people who are seeking extra help both virtually and financially.
But, giving back to those who need it most right now is more possible than you may think. While those essential workers remain our first-responders on the field, the masses of our population who are at home continue to seek out ways to help by volunteering.
Whether in the form of dedicating time or money, the millions of Americans who are remaining at home are looking for opportunities to contribute in every way possible. Thanks to sites like Idealist, who have pooled together volunteer opportunities, as well as a list of mutual-aid networks to create resources where there aren't any, volunteering is just as possible during the unprecedented pandemic than it was before — it may just look and feel a bit different.
It can feel debilitating to be stuck at home wanting to help, but you don’t have to just watch people doing good in the world. You can be one of the helpers, too, even from your own home. Ahead of National Volunteer Week, here are some key material ways you can volunteer from right where you are and make a difference.
Work for a crisis hotline.
If you feel like you’re able to volunteer to help others in need, and your own mental health is in a good place, volunteering for a crisis textline or hotline is a huge way to help others who are struggling with issues like domestic violence, child abuse, suicidal ideation, or other crises that have become worse during the pandemic. This can be as simple as connecting with people who are calling or texting in to organizations seeking advice, and is a way to really help save lives of people who need support right now.
Foster or adopt an animal.
Now is the perfect time to help dogs, cats, and animals in shelters that have been looking for homes, since you’re already home all the time to begin with. You can use this time to give love and care to a canine or feline friend temporarily, or give them a forever home. That way, you get extra affection, and so does an animal in need. To find a shelter, you can check out the ASPCA’s resources, or check out local rescue organizations in your home city and state that will help guide you to animals nearby that need your help the most.
Volunteer your time to help elderly people.
Elderly people are one of the populations most at risk during this pandemic, with COVID-19 affecting elderly people at alarming rates. If you want to volunteer your time to provide resources to elderly people, you can do that through National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, which has an Eldercare Locator that you can search to connect to your local agency and find an organization helping elderly people in your community that currently needs support. These are remote opportunities that include chatting with elderly people who are alone virtually or making sure that all their needs are properly communicated if they are unable to care for themselves or need further assistance.
Donate money to relief funds.
Plenty of relief funds are in need of money. If you still have a job, extra income, or have received a stimulus check with extra money you can afford to give up, you can donate your money to a relief fund of your choosing — and there are many. These relief funds are supporting everything from small businesses to communities who are struggling to remain healthy during the pandemic. You can also directly give to people’s GoFundMe’s, community relief funds that are using Venmo, or to efforts like Survived and Punished, raising money for incarcerated people, one of the most heavily affected populations during the pandemic.
Tutor students virtually.
Across the country, students are now homebound, unable to learn in their regular environments. That means that many students need tutors or mentorship. If that sounds like something you have the skillset for, you can volunteer through iCouldBe, a student mentorship program you can volunteer with and dedicate one hour each week for the school year.
Provide material resources or services to your community.
Through the action of mutual aid, you can exchange mutual resources or services within your own community. This could mean anything from donating kitchenware, helping make face masks, or deliver goods to people who are the most at-risk. The best way to contribute your material resources or services is by finding networks close to you, like on VolunteerMatch, that will help you track down what local people need most.
Donate any essential items you can spare.
If you aren’t able to volunteer your time or give money, there are still ways to help. While it's not advised in many states that people donate clothes right now, you can still donate other essential items like soap, plates, cookware, baby supplies, cleaning supplies, and hygiene products. The Salvation Army is one network that is prioritizing these donations to provide to people who need them most right now.
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the CDC website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.