Are volunteers needed?
Yes. Your community needs you now, more than ever.
By staying at home, washing hands, and limiting social contact, you are doing your part to minimize a crisis. But now many immuno-compromised individuals are trapped in their homes, unable to pick up basic supplies.
Government officials are working around the clock to stop the COVID-19 pandemic. They are stretched thin. They do not have the resources or capacity to feed everyone or pick up prescriptions for seniors. The community will need to help itself.
Is it OK to volunteer?
Many areas in the country are under stay-at-home orders or advisories. However, even those orders permit "essential" activities like going to the store, and helping neighbors.
Always obey law enforcement and public health officials. If you choose to volunteer and are questioned by law enforcement, explain that you are delivering essential food to the elderly. Most of the time that will be sufficient. If that doesn't work, having a letter from your relief organization, faith community or community group on letterhead will often satisfy officials.
Is it safe to volunteer?
Yes, when you take common-sense precautions.
Always follow the advice of public health officials including social distancing, regular and thorough handwashing. Do not volunteer if you have any risk factors, or if you do not feel comfortable.
Many types of volunteering may be done remotely. For example:
- Checking up on neighbors via phone or video conference.
- Returning calls through Crisis Cleanup (see below).
- Setting up virtual "play dates" with kids.
- Reassuring friends on social media.
- Sharing information from reputable sources online.
Some types of volunteering must be done in real life. But you can still minimize risk to yourself and others. These are examples. Work with local organizations and follow their policies.
- Donating Food: Food banks across the country are experiencing massive shortages. Contact your local food bank and ask how to donate safely.
- Warehousing: Many relief organizations are looking for help stocking food and supplies. These activities are usually done in large warehouses, away from other people.
- Delivering Food: Working with a relief organization, you can deliver food in groups of just 1-2 people, leave the food on the doorstep, and sanitize your hands and the packaging.
- Working with Animals
- Giving Blood: There are nation-wide blood shortages. The American Red Cross has new procedures and assures that it is safe to give blood.
Do I need to join an organization?
Your best chance to volunteer is with groups you already know.
It is helpful to know which mode of volunteering is best for you:
- Affiliated volunteerism is when you join a relief organization. A "relief organization" is more than the American Red Cross. It might be the church down the street, a scout troop, or a food bank. Because everyone is so busy, you will have better luck joining a group that already knows you. Affiliated volunteerism will give you the most opportunities and resources to help your neighbor.
- Unaffiliated volunteerism is when people just show up looking to help. While you can help your neighbors on your own, nobody has time to tell you what to do. Nationally, at least 92-97% of unaffiliated volunteers are never put to work.
- Emergent organizations are groups that pivot to meet a community need. For example, a 4x4 enthusiast club in Colorado, an informal network of pastors in Moore Oklahoma, protesters in New York have all created emergent organizations. These groups are nimble, but often don't have many resources.
- Digital humanitarians are people who gather data online and create maps or other information to help us understand what's happening.
The mode of volunteering you choose will determine the types of activities you are able to do. But regardless, you will have the best outcome if you volunteer with a group that already knows you.
Do you know of a relief organization, food bank, or other group that can help? Tell us! We'll reach out to them.