Of course, the best and easiest ways to help others during the coronavirus pandemic is to wash your hands, social distance if you must go out, self-quarantine if you are sick or think you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 and cancel any group gatherings, especially of more than 10 people.
For most of us, self-isolating is new, but all this distance from one another doesn’t make us helpless in this collective fight. There are still things we can do for one another. Whether you have time, money, a car or even a phone, there are big and small ways you can help others.
Help your community:
1. Only buy what you need, so everyone in your community can get what they need.
2. Give to your local food bank. They all need help and contributions, especially those in communities hardest hit by COVID-19.
4. Consider fostering or adopting a pet in need, as typical shelter volunteers aren’t able to make it in to help at this time — and they’re always in need of food and cleaning supplies, too.
5. Start a community garden in the neighborhood and set up a schedule to stagger work times for distanced gardening. It’ll help soothe the stir crazy and can teach an important skill and provide food.
6. Share with your community if you find yourself with an abundance of food or provisions. One family canceled their son’s Bar Mitzvah but decided to keep their contract with a tiny Hmong-owned business and delivered the food to friends in quarantine and sent the rest home with others. And there was this guy who set up a toilet paper exchange on a street corner, so those with extra could drop off and those in need could pick up.
7. Call your elected officials and ask them to act on sweeping policies to help families, small businesses and vulnerable populations.
Help seniors and others in need:
8. Check on seniors, disabled or other at-risk neighbors in your area. Since there should be no contact right now, print out one of these #ViralKindness Postcards and leave it on their door or doorstep. Then they’ll know how to reach out!
9. Start a neighborhood signup to help those in need, using Facebook or Nextdoor. Think errands, chores, errands, trash cans, yard work. The state of Michigan even set up a central registry for this purpose.
10. Donate to Meals on Wheels America, which works to keep older Americans across the country safe and nourished.
11. Check in on anyone you know who might have depression or anxiety, both of which can be exacerbated during a crisis like this.
12. Schedule regular chats or even book or poetry readings by phone with homebound individuals.
13. Ask kids to call grandparents and other senior family members every couple of days. If they’re set up to do video chat, even better.
14. Have the kids draw pictures and write letters to local seniors in nursing homes who can’t have visitors at this time.
15. Call a friend or relative who’s far away and lives alone. The mental toll of self isolation can be immense for some people. Reach out to them, let them hear your voice, listen to them and make sure they are in a good mental place.
16. Don’t have a nearby neighbor in need? Ask your place of worship if there are any ways to help their aging attendees.
17. Shop or do errands for quarantined (even self-quarantined) families who need to stay home or don’t want to take their kids out in public areas.
18. If you’re a senior stuck at home or parent who’s home with your kids, consider doing a virtual story hour, using a free app like FaceTime or WhatsApp. One adult can keep several kids entertained at a time.
19. Donate the refund from that weekend getaway you had to cancel to help someone else’s college student travel home.
20. If your employer allows you to gift your sick time, donate some to a coworker who needs to be off to care for themselves or family.
Help domestic workers:
21. If you have a nanny or regular babysitter, release them from work and pay them, especially if you are able to work from home and/or are still getting normal paychecks.
22. Take the next step on the above and add paid leave benefits for any domestic worker you employ.
23. Donate to the Coronavirus Care Fund, which provides immediate financial support for in-home care workers, nannies and house cleaners during the crisis.
Help the health care community:
24. Don’t use the medical system unless it is urgent.
25. One doctor even suggests chilling out on activities that commonly land folks in the ER.
26. If you know people in the health care industry — nurses, doctors, admins, CNAs, paramedics or others — do something for them or their families: Run errands, grocery shop, place online orders for things they need.
27. Donate to the WHO Solidarity Fund, powered by the UN Foundation and Swiss Philanthropy Foundation. Donations support the World Health Organization’s work to track and understand the spread of the coronavirus; to ensure patients get the care they need and frontline workers get essential supplies and information; and to accelerate efforts to develop vaccines, tests, and treatments. (And Facebook is matching the first US $10 million donated).
28. If you pay for routine services, such as a house cleaner, hair stylist or personal trainer, cancel any upcoming appointments but pay them their normal rate if you can.
29. Be kind to staff working in grocery stores. They’re working hard, waiting for food delivery trucks and stocking the shelves as quickly as possible. Plus, they also have families and personal stresses of their own. A smile, some patience and a thank you can go a long way.
30. If you order food delivery, be kind to your delivery people. They’re under a lot of pressure right now too. For social distancing purposes, ask to have the order left on your doorstep or in the lobby or use the new “no contact” option offered on many food delivery apps. Tip well — as if you were dining in or $5 at minimum — and tip digitally so cash doesn’t have to be exchanged. If there are mistakes or delays, please forgive.
Help small businesses:
31. Shop locally wherever you can.
32. Buy gift certificates now for your favorite local restaurants and use them later.
33. For local cafes, book shops and other small businesses with online shops, give them your business online.
34. Have dinner delivered from a great local restaurant or ship a pound (or three!) of local coffee to the health care professionals, seniors or quarantined families on your block.