The best ways to volunteer, donate, and support your community right now
Every morning, Benjamin Franklin asked himself, “What good shall I do this day?” Oregonians are known for doing good and for our friendly, community-centered lifestyle, so staying home may feel odd or unhelpful – even though staying home is the best thing you can do, better than anything else on this or any other list. None of these activities put others at risk, so if you’ve already mastered limiting your trips out and about, here are some ways you can get involved and be helpful.
1. Check on your neighbors. Call your elderly or health-vulnerable neighbors, leave a note, or knock at the door and step back six feet – and ask if they need a prescription refilled or groceries. You can also consolidate grocery runs with your neighbors. Any time you do head to the store, offer to pick up what they need so people aren’t running out multiple times a week to pick up just a couple of items.
2. Donate blood. Dozens of blood drives have been canceled, leaving our national blood reserves low. It is still safe to donate blood. The Red Cross is practicing social distancing and sanitizing protocol to keep blood donation safe for donors. Make an appointment today.
3. Buy gift cards. Supporting your favorite mom and pop restaurant or coffee shop by purchasing a gift card that will give them a little cash infusion while they’re temporarily closed, and then you have a “free” meal to use later. You can also pre-pay for an appointment down the line with your hairdresser, nail salon artist, personal trainer, housecleaner, or other service that you usually frequent as a way to ensure they have income while their businesses are closed. Especially as many Oregon counties begin to re-open under Phase One, those gift cards will come in handy!
4. Send virtual hugs. Did you know that before the COVID-19 crisis, approximately 60% of long-term care residents never received a visitor? Let residents know we’re here for them and thinking about them during this time. Print out a #LoveFromADistance flyer, write a message, snap a photo, and post to their Facebook page. You can also record video messages of support to residents of the Lebanon Veterans Home, which has been hard hit by COVID-19. The Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs is collecting video clips, which are shown on the closed-circuit TV in the facility. Learn more here.
5. Help a foster child. There are currently more than 4,000 foster families caring for more than 7,000 kids in Oregon right now, and many are struggling for basic needs during the coronavirus crisis. The Department of Human Services and Every Child just launched a statewide program called My NeighbOR to help meet the needs of foster children and their foster families in Oregon. You can sign up here to donate a “flash box” or supplies of what they need most – groceries, diapers, learning materials, and more.
6. Stock a food bank. Volunteer to stock shelves for the Oregon Food Bank, who is enforcing social distancing for volunteers to keep you safe, or pack to-go boxes for your local food bank. Bonus points for bringing a donation of canned or boxed goods with you.
7. Donate new PPE – or your time. If you’re a pre-credentialed health care professional, you can sign up here to volunteer with the State Emergency Registry of Volunteers in Oregon (SERV-OR). Anyone can donate new personal protective equipment (PPE) to the state’s cache for first responders and medical personnel to use. Please fill out this survey from the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, who will respond with directions.
8. Deliver for Meals on Wheels. Meals on Wheels is facing a shortage of drivers, even though they have adopted a “no contact” delivery model to keep both the deliverer and the homebound elderly safe. Volunteer here to deliver meals; routes typically take approximately 90 minutes and depart from 20 pickup locations across Oregon. Meals on Wheels is also in need of bags with handles for hanging meals on the doors of their homebound elderly recipients, as well as supplies such as hand sanitizer, anti-bacterial wipes, and plastic gloves; find out more here about donating those supplies.
9. Donate to nonprofits helping Oregon communities. If you can, consider donating to your local food bank, Meals on Wheels, the American Red Cross, Restaurant Workers Community Relief Fund, Emergency Solidarity Fund for Day Laborer Workers, National Coalition for Homelessness, the CDC foundation, or the nonprofit of your choice that’s assisting with the coronavirus response.
10. Stay home whenever possible. Even though many Oregon counties are re-opening, we still must resist the urge to crowd together in big groups and popular hotspots. So take a solo walk in your neighborhood, order some take out, or get started on that yard work you’ve been putting off. Remember that staying home, wearing a face covering, and keeping six feet between you and other people when you do need to go out for groceries, is the best way to show your support for your fellow Oregonians. Staying at home will continue to save lives. Now might be the first time in history that sitting on your couch makes you a hero!