I hadn’t planned on writing about the Coronavius again, but when I sat down to write what I’d previously planned on my editorial calendar (don’t be impressed, it’s just my regular calendar, but “editorial” sounds so, well, editorial), I realized I had no enthusiasm or energy for “regular” topics. We’re all feeling the impact of the Coronavirus in some way, or we will soon, and we should all be preparing for what’s almost certain to be a recession. And not a short, easy recession either. So, I’ll sink into what’s on all of our minds. I’ll write what feels natural during this most unnatural time.
My first article on the Coronavirus dealt primarily with the immediate financial and health ramifications of a pandemic. Now that I’ve had a few days to settle into isolation with my husband and children, I want to discuss the ways in which we can offer help to others. Please share your specific suggestions in the comments section. Everyone’s community is different, everyone will have different opportunities to serve their neighbors, and I want to hear all of your ideas and advice.
Form a Neighborhood Committee
My town, being only 400 people, is my neighborhood and one of my neighbors created a committee to assist fellow townspeople. We’re a virtual committee, meeting by email and discussing over the phone. We’re still evolving as needs arise, but the basic idea is thus:
- Our assembled task force will serve as the organizational node for townsfolk who need assistance.
- The task force consists of people who are able to drive the 40 minutes to purchase groceries, pick-up prescriptions, and buy other essentials.
- The task force also consists of people designated as “organizers” who will answer phone and email requests for aid and offers of assistance.
- The organizers will then communicate with the shoppers/errand-runners to coordinate trips to town.
- By doing this, we aim to reduce the amount of in-person contacts by only having a few folks designated as shoppers/errand-runners. Our goal is also to keep our elderly neighbors home and out of the grocery stores as much as possible to limit everyone’s infection risk.
- The task force is alert to any resources available to our neighbors, such as the breakfasts and lunches being distributed by the school district.
This committee arose simply from need and from a desire for all of us to make sure our neighbors are ok. We’re not a formal group, we’re not codified in any way and we don’t even have a name. We don’t need one. The need, and our purpose, is clear. I think now’s the time for these type of informal, ad hoc groups to coalesce in a desire to weave the web of community care that we’re all going to need in order to get through this pandemic. If you live in my town and would like to become involved, send an email to email@example.com.
Donate Money To Organizations On The Front Lines
My husband and I made the decision a few years back to focus our philanthropy in our local community. There’s a lot of economic need in our area and we concentrate our donations on small organizations with small budgets that perform necessary, direct services in our town and the surrounding area. My rationale–as a former professional fundraiser–is that a donation of, say $1,000, will have a much greater impact on an organization with a $100,000 annual budget than on an organization with a $25M annual budget. Wherever you live, there are likely organizations on the front lines of this epidemic that need your support.
Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Food pantries
- Homeless shelters
- Domestic violence support organizations/shelters/resource centers
Suggestions from readers:
- Food banks: Tara shared that, “Food Banks, not just food pantries, may be the organizations worth giving first, especially if your local food pantry has had to shutter due to Covid-19 (a lot are run by senior volunteers so some have had to temporarily close). Food Banks are the ones who collect all the food, either though donations and/or food purchasing (at significantly reduced rate vs. individuals buying) and they distribute to local food pantries (with the FB handling all transportation, logistics, and costs) in a designated area. Feeding America has designated Food Banks across the united states that cover every geographic region.”
Support Your Local Economy
Similar to donating to local charities, now’s the time to bolster our local economy. In Vermont, all bars and restaurants are closed, but they’re still allowing take-out orders. If your state/city still permits delivery or take-out, consider supporting your favorite local establishments. We don’t have any restaurants in our town and we’re too far away for anywhere to deliver to us, but I’m hoping we can make the hour and twenty-minute roundtrip drive to pick-up take-out soon. I have to say, in the four years we’ve lived here, I haven’t missed take-out delivery since this week! Buying gift certificates to restaurants is another way to help prop up their sales during this abysmal economic time.
Additionally, my husband and I are looking for ways to directly support our neighbors since many of them sell farm products. We’ve just found a neighbor to buy eggs from and we already have a local source for beef. I’ll be on the lookout for any other neighbors selling goods in our hyper-local economy in the coming weeks.
Your local economy will look different based on where you live, but, if you’re financially able, I think it makes sense to consider how you might support locally-owned businesses during this downturn. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that you should only make these types of purchases if you have a solid emergency fund saved up, are not in immediate risk of losing your job, and have your debts under control.
Since my little family is in total isolation–no one is coming, no one is going–we’ve turned to the internet to keep up with our friends. I’m making a point of reaching out to friends and neighbors by text, email, and phone and they’re doing the same for me. I’m having video chat dates and I have to say, it really does help. Every time I get a text, it’s a reminder that I’m not alone. It seems overly simple, but staying in contact feels like an invaluable lifeline right now. Tethering myself to my local friends, my family across the country, and my neighbors feels like the right way to remind each other that we’re all still here and we all still care.
My good friend, Erin Lowry of Broke Millennial, put together a COVID-19 resource handbook in which she compiled state and federal resources on everything from food to shelter to jobs to charities in need of donations to information about the disease itself. It’s a highly comprehensive undertaking, which is accessible here. If you find this resource helpful, please share it with friends, family, and anyone who might be in need of assistance.
Keep Yourself Out Of Circulation: Be One Less Patient
As I noted earlier this week, staying home and maintaining social distance (if you must leave your house) are ways to profoundly help slow the spread of this virus. If you’re able to stay home, do it for those in our communities who cannot stay home. We all have a role to play right now.