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Covid-19 Volunteer Possibilities

Helping Hands“Stress levels are high, of course, and this certainly is uncharted territory, but I think the best way to handle the coming weeks (and, possibly, months) is to reach out and help someone who may be worse off,” suggests Sandra Andrade, executive director of the business association Main Street Ann Arbor.

She and many others in our community came up with creative, innovative, and commonsense ways to reach out to neighbors without actual physical contact.

  • Before you drop that box of cereal, milk carton, or loaf of bread in your cart, pay extra attention to the pricing label. If it says “WIC”, the product has been designated for low-income women, infants, and children in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program. People who use WIC to feed their children can’t switch to another brand or kind of food. If a store runs out of WIC options, these women go home empty-handed.
  • Take a casserole, batch of brownies, or jar of jam to an elderly neighbor or shut-in—call in advance, ring the doorbell, and step back far enough to call out a greeting.
  • Visit an elderly friend or family member, but keep a window between you as you speak by phone.
  • Be an advocate of good health measures by sharing official messages regarding public health and safety to your friends and family, via social media, phone calls, or letters.
  • Adopt or foster a new pet from the Humane Society or from someone in the community who can no longer care for their pet.
  • Don’t panic at the grocery store or pharmacy. Don’t hoard. Grocery stores have plenty—they just need the time and space to stock shelves.
  • Find creative ways to volunteer in your community—rake someone’s yard, paint a front door, weed a garden for a shut-in, share books and magazines, shop for someone you know, deliver prescriptions or donuts.
  • Skype regularly with family and friends.
  • Volunteer to tutor children in your area of expertise (math, writing, history, social studies) by skype. Or, if you don’t feel qualified, read stories or demonstrate crafts via skype.
  • Help assemble and/or deliver meals to shut-ins and school children.
  • Make sure to smile at everyone you see, thank the overworked clerks in stores you visit, send notes of thank and appreciation to first responders, healthcare workers, and others helping your community.
  • Support local businesses by ordering merchandise online, quickly visiting the premises at low-peak hours, or purchasing gift cards.
  • Wash your hands—frequently and thoroughly.

Many local organizations are stretched to their limits in an effort to meet the huge and escalating demand for services. These nonprofit agencies have all announced that 100% of all donations will be used to “meet the needs of the vulnerable populations, including those needing food, helping children, and serving families facing loss of income due to business closures, health issues, and housing crises.”

Donations, contributions, and volunteer hours would be greatly appreciated for:

  • The American Red Cross has a severe blood shortage, since more than 220 of its upcoming blood drives have been canceled in Michigan alone. Healthy individuals are desperately needed to help critically ill patients. The Red Cross assures donors that this is “a safe process and we have implemented additional precautions to ensure blood drives and donation centers are even safer for our donors and staff.” 4624 Packard Street. RedCross.org. Phone: 1-800-RED CROSS.
  • The United Way of Washtenaw, which launched its COVID-19 Community Relief Fund in early March and within two weeks had reached $150,000 of its $1 million goal. To donate, visit uwgive.org. United Way of Washtenaw County welcomes calls from volunteers offering their time, funds, and donations. 2305 Platt Rd. Phone: 734.971.8200.
  • SOS Community Services. They operate a food pantry and walk-in services, offering families transportation, help with utilities, personal care items, and housing resources. 114 N. River St., Ypsilanti. Phone: 734.484.9945.
  • Community Action Network’s Bryant Community Center Market offers weekly food distributions to all county residents Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Families will line up at the door for bags of food; they won’t come in the building. Email volunteers@canannarbor.org.
  • Food Gatherers. Their network of food pantries and meal programs responded immediately to the crisis, including the Community Kitchen. A recent press release noted, “Our services may be expanded and/or modified to best address our community’s needs as the public health situation develops, but we will continue providing food. In everything we do, Food Gatherers is following infection control practices and CDC guidelines to avoid service contamination.” They are working closely with school districts to develop delivery and distribution systems. Local Rotary clubs offer to match contributions of $25 or more—and that $50 will provide enough food for 150 meals. Volunteers support all operations. See www.foodgatherers.org/donate or call 734.761.2796.
  • The TeaHaus/Eat More Tea (211 E. Ann Street) will train a limited number of volunteers in food safety and preparation protocols as they provide boxed lunches and dinners to needy residents. See the TeaHaus facebook and website (TeaHaus.com) for more information.
  • Hope Clinic has cancelled all events while focusing on its food programs, “to make these available more often.” They need help stocking, organizing, cleaning, preparing and distributing meals-to-go every night but Wednesdays and Fridays. To volunteer: thehopeclinic.org/serve-with-hope or thehopeclinic.org/donate.
  • Your local school district is preparing and distributing lunches for students on weekdays. www.a2schools.org
  • The Humane Society of Huron Valley. The Michigan Humane Society has suspended adoption and surrender services, but not our local facility. As family budgets grow distressingly tight, many will be forced to give up their pets because they can no longer afford them. The HSHV always welcome donations of food and treats for dogs and cats, as well as financial contributions and volunteer time spent with the pets. They also celebrate each pet adoption. See www.hshv.com
  • Washtenaw County Salvation Army has temporarily closed its Family Thrift Store locations and is focusing on providing food, manning Bed & Bread trucks and kitchens. See salarmy.us/COVID-19
  • Ann Arbor Community Center “is focusing on supporting urgent needs during the COVID-19 situation. Phone: 734.662.3128.
  • SafeHouse Center provides shelter for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, as well as counseling, legal advocacy, and support groups. Phone: 734.995.5444.
  • Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels is continuing its regular operations, but with extra precautions. It is working to create shelf-stable and frozen meals in case the organization needs to close—“although that would be a last resort.” Call 734.998.6686 or email aamealsonwheels@umich.edu.

Note: An edited version of this article was published in the March 2020 publication of the Ann Arbor Observer.