Just a few months ago, I couldn’t imagine writing an article on how we can volunteer during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The COVID-19 public health crisis has wreaked havoc since the first confirmed case earlier this year.
The good news is that this pandemic is bringing out the best in people. There are many instances coming to light showing generosity, support, and kindness towards those in need. There are ways you can help others, too.
The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University tracks the global spread of the virus daily. See the map here for regular updates. Washoe County website has a COVID-19 Impact Dashboard you can check regularly for updated information. You can track the daily trend of active cases.
As of today, there are 1,256 total cases and 47 deaths in our county. In Nevada as a whole, there are 6,872 cases. Luckily, my family and I have remained healthy.
We are practicing social distancing measures, staying home, limiting trips to the grocery store, and wearing masks in public.
If you’re like me, you wonder about neighbors around you who might be elderly, have a newborn, are immune-compromised, or are sheltering in place to avoid exposure.
Creating A Volunteer Group
If you’ve thought about connecting to your immediate community to see how you can help, I am sharing steps that you can take to form a volunteer group in your neighborhood.
Partner with a Neighbor
When you start a volunteer group, it is easier if you have a partner to help. There are several steps to this process. Splitting tasks can be a lot easier. In my case, I partnered with a neighbor, who had a similar concern for those at risk for COVID-19.
We realized people who are at risk may not be able to go to the grocery store pick up prescriptions, or tend to other needs outside their homes.
Name a Point Person
To streamline the process, it helps to have a point person for your group. The point person can delegate tasks for the whole group.
Figure out Your Plan
I came up with a 5-step plan that we could put into action once we got together a group of volunteers. You’ll need to customize your plan for your own neighborhood, but here is mine for an example:
email blast to the full neighborhood to recruit volunteers
set up Private Facebook Group to connect volunteers
door to door flyers distribution to reach vulnerable individuals
create care packages ready to distribute to those in need
set up an emergency fund where neighbors can choose to donate
Connect with your HOA General Manager
Forming a volunteer group means recruiting like-minded neighbors. If you belong to an HOA, contact the Manager and ask for a neighborhood-wide email blast to recruit those willing to help.
Draft an email message for the Manager to send and include a point person. This can be a good first step to gauge interest quickly.
Recruit Volunteers on NextDoor
If you don’t have an HOA, recruit volunteers from an online forum like NextDoor.
Collaborate with Volunteers
Once you’ve had responses from neighbors willing to help, you can put your plan into action and set up a Private Facebook Group. This provides a platform for volunteers.
It provides access to valuable resources and community discussion. The goal is to match a volunteer with a vulnerable neighbor in need. In my case, we now have 22 volunteers that span different areas of our neighborhood.
One thing to keep in mind is that not every resident in your neighborhood uses email or social media. Especially those who are elderly; there needs to be a way to reach them. A flyer dropped into a mailbox can be an easy way to reach out.
In my case, we had each volunteer distribute 30 flyers in their immediate area with information about our efforts. To do this I designed a flyer, but you can use a template and print out multiple copies.
Our goal with this first round of flyers was to reach over 600 households to let them know about our group.
Make and Distribute Care Packages
When you have a group of volunteers, you can ask each person to put together 1 or 2 care packages. We thought about essentials someone might need and came up with this list:
Our efforts are free of charge to the recipient until a donation fund can be set up. So far we have over 20 care packages ready to be distributed.
We also have volunteers willing to drop off prescriptions or other essentials to at-risk neighbors.
Shop for Supplies
You are grocery shopping anyway for your family, so it is easy to pick up a few extra items on the list to make up the care package.
The biggest obstacle is when store shelves are bare and you can’t get every item on the list. Don’t worry though, get what you can, because whatever you provide will be appreciated.
Include an Encouraging Note
One idea is to include a note of encouragement into the care package to brighten someone’s day.
Get the Word Out
We are lucky that our HOA Manager contacted the editor of our neighborhood magazine. They are writing about our group for the May/June edition and we hope to reach more neighbors who are in need this way.
If you don’t have a neighborhood publication, think about other creative ways to connect with your community to get the word out about your volunteer group.
Email neighbors, you know personally, and reach out to a real estate agent who is well connected. You’d be surprised how resourceful people can be.
Stay Positive and Connect with Like-minded Neighbors
It’s nice to know there are many neighbors out there willing to help! This is a trying time for us all, and one thing that can bring a sense of purpose to this situation is finding other like-minded neighbors out there to discuss concerns with and take actionable steps.
I hope this post encourages you to help out in any way you can!
Maureen Lowe is a Bay Area native that relocated to the high desert mountains of Southwest Reno with her family in 2017. Mama to her active pup and toddler boy, Maureen is a textile designer and graduate of CCA San Francisco. With a lifelong love of nature and the arts, Maureen has made it a mission to explore Reno’s scenic trails and cultural offerings to find kid and dog-friendly outings that work in all seasons.