The Top 10 Ways to Help People Right Now in This Health Crisis

updated Apr 1, 2020
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One wonderful thing to come out of this global pandemic is seeing how people are coming together to support one another. If you’re fortunate enough to be healthy and well, chances are you want to help. And that’s a great idea — not only because we all need each other right now, but because keeping busy and giving back can tear you away from the endless and increasingly-frightening news cycle. 

While more traditional means of helping out (think: volunteering in a soup kitchen) may not be on the table right now, there are other ways to contribute. We’ve gathered a selection here and would love to hear from you, too: How are you and your community helping?

1. Give what you can to a food bank.

Things are getting increasingly harder for food banks, food pantries, and soup kitchens, as donations from individuals and grocery stores begin to diminish. It’s hard for a grocery store to donate leftover food if there isn’t any and people are stockpiling their canned goods. Your local food bank or community resource center needs your help more than ever, so if you can, donate. Even if it’s just one of the many cans of beans you bought last week.

2. Donate to kids who need meals.

Around 22 million children in the United States rely on the free or reduced-price lunch they receive at school. With schools closed, these children no longer have access to lunch or other meals they may depend on. Consider donating to No Kid Hungry to help support them. 

3. Support your local businesses.

As the list of closing businesses grows, so do the ranks of business owners (and their employees) who have just lost part or all of their livelihood. If your job hasn’t been affected or you can afford it, now’s the time to infuse these businesses with cash. Many restaurants have gift cards or merchandise available, so take advantage! A gift card will be something you can look forward to using when all of this blows over and a little trinket can be a nice treat for now. These purchases certainly won’t replace normal income, but they’re something. Check the social channels for your favorite local places and, chances are, if they have a way you can support them — from gift cards to delivery to GoFundMe accounts — it’ll be front and center.

Read more: A Small Way to Help Local Businesses During the COVID-19 Pandemic

4. Send food to someone in need.

We might not be making meals to take to friends or those in need right now, but we can still send food to loved ones or neighbors in need. Even if you can’t get out to a grocery store or carry-out restaurant, you can get meals and food sent through the mail. See what you can get delivered from sites like Freshly, Misfits Produce, and Thrive Market.

Read more: Beyond Instacart & Amazon: 9 Grocery Delivery Services to Bring Fresh Food to Your Door

5. Check in on your neighbors.

Maybe you’re lucky and live in a close-knit community. I know I’m fortunate to have neighbors that have been looking out for one another long before this crisis. If not, there’s never been a better time to start. Talk to your neighbors, either in person (from several feet away, of course), through text, or on a social site like NextDoor. Ask what they need and see if you have extra or if you can pick something up if you’re going out. You can always do a porch or doorway drop if your neighbor isn’t felling well.

6. Look for a mutual aid group in your area.

Mutual aid groups have started popping up around the country to track willing volunteers and people in need of food or medicine. Search online (again, checking NextDoor or Facebook) to see if there’s anything in your area. If not, consider using your own skills to get one started.

7. Put your skills to work.

Speaking of your great skills! Are you amazing with data or web-based information gathering? People across the country are creating new tools to help. Maybe you can do the same. Here are a few I’ve seen around my home: Louisville COVID-19 Match pairs healthy volunteers with those in need; Louisville Area Carry Out Options gathers and shares information on restaurants still open for carry-out, and Keep Louisville Restaurants Strong provides quick links where diners can buy gift cards. 

Are you savvy with fundraising or online marketing? Help someone in need set up a fundraising account. Seriously, you could even just share a post on social media letting people know what you’re good at and that you’re available to help — people may come to you!

8. Stay connected and check in on your loved ones.

We’re social animals, and being isolated is hard. My friend and I decided that instead of canceling our lunch date this week we’re taking it to Zoom for a video chat while we eat. I’ve also seen friends host cocktails via video and even a bourbon tasting (because: Kentucky). Even if you don’t host a video party, now’s a great time to go back to actual phone calls and make sure your friends and family know you’re thinking of them. 

9. Give blood.

As blood drives have been canceled, the Red Cross has seen a disastrous drop in blood donations. It’s easy to let things like this take a back seat right now, but if donations dry up, there could be another health crisis on top of the existing one. The Red Cross assures donors that giving blood is safe. If you’re well and able to, schedule an appointment now.

10. Stock up responsibly and with thought to others.

By now, you’ve surely heard of the hoarding that’s going on. Buying up more than you really need means that other people might go without. There are some common courtesies and general etiquette rules for shopping during an emergency. Please be sure to read them over and adhere to them.

Have you seen any other great ways to help during the pandemic? Feel free to add more suggestions in the comments below!