8 Ways to Volunteer Right Now—Without Leaving Your Home
You can still do good from the comfort of your couch.
Just because we're all homebound right now doesn’t mean that we can’t still do good. In fact, now, more than ever, is an important time to support organizations in need. Not just our frontline workers (although please support them!), but those that always need our help, from sheltered animals to foster kids.
With the current stay-at-home mandates, many volunteer organizations were forced to quickly pivot to a virtual model in order to continue their important work. One such organization is The Honeycomb Project, a group that (usually) plans in-person volunteer opportunities for families across the Chicago area. “It really became evident to us that our partners need us more than ever,” says co-founder Kristina Lowenstein. So she took the group's mission digital with Honeycomb at Home, a national resource of weekly emails full of great TED talks on different organizations, questions to prompt and inspire change, and projects people can do to support those in need, no matter your age (get the kids involved too!) or where you live. “This is such a great way to kickstart family commitment to philanthropy,” she says. “There is more opportunity to ignite change across our community than ever before."
Here are eight ways to give back from the comfort of your own home.
Start in Your Own Neighborhood
People need a sense of community more than ever now and what better place to start than in your neighborhood. Think of all the frontline workers you interact with and put forward small gestures–put a sign on the garbage can to let trash workers know they are appreciated, or a note for your mailman on the mailbox,” says Lowenstein. Put a chalk message on your driveway thanking policeman that may drive by or doctors that live in the area. And look out for your neighbors too. Send a text to check in on their well-being and practice random acts of kindness like adding a forgotten item to your grocery list, leaving surprise chalk messages or little treats on their porch. A small act of kindness goes a long way right now.
Bring a Smile to Seniors
Our senior population (especially those living in nursing homes or assisted living) is extremely vulnerable as they face COVID-19 without being able to be with family members, and in some cases, caregivers. Leslie Katz, the director of volunteers for Jewish Senior Life of Metro Detroit, encourages people everywhere to speak with their local senior facilities who are all looking for ways to make connections for their residents. Many of them are open to getting drawings that you scan, and they print for their residents. Also welcome are “sunshine calls,” or quick calls to residents to brighten their day, or they can connect you as a pen pal to email or write letters to a resident.
Don’t Forget Those Pets
No time like the present to think about adopting an animal, and many shelters across the country have made it so you can virtually register. If you aren’t ready to fully commit, so many would appreciate volunteers to foster pets, especially as they can’t open shelters right now for people to come and play. And if that’s too much of a commitment, many shelters will accept homemade tug toys that you can mail in. There is a video here that shows how to make them.
Support Homeless Youth
Homeless and trafficked youths aren’t blessed with quarantining in a cozy space. Each year, the national organization Covenant House, which supports these youths, does a fundraiser called the National Sleep Out, where they challenge people to sleep outside to know what it feels like. This year they are taking it virtual and more people can reflect, fundraise, and support these youths through activities, stories, and sleeping on the floor on April 24.
Pack up Donation Bags
Like many households, you are likely decluttering—but don’t go trashing those items so fast. Most food pantries are still collecting canned goods, so if you happened to go a little crazy in the beans department, consider donating to them. “Many also need paper bags, because they can no longer package in reusable bags,” says Lowenstein. You may have to hold on to clothes for a bit, but there will be plenty of organizations clamoring for them eventually. The same goes for any books. Research the organizations you’ll want to donate to and you’ll be able to make a quick phone call for pickup or drop-off when restrictions are lifted.
Be Cognizant of Where and How You Buy
More than ever, the little things add up big for the organizations you want to support. Using smile.amazon.com when you order on Amazon will give a percentage to a non-profit of your choosing, and the same with eBay charity. Buy products that give back and support small businesses in your community that may need extra support.
Do Something for the Earth
Never had the time to compost? Garden? Now is a good time to try some of those things. It’s also a good time to take stock of how much you waste. Can you turn old T-shirts into reusable shoppers? Use toilet paper rolls for craft projects before you ditch them? Even replacing old light bulbs with more energy efficient choices can help the earth with minimal effort.
Hold a Virtual Fundraiser
This may be a year without galas or bake sales, but it doesn’t mean you can’t get creative and support your favorite organizations. Alex’s Lemonade, which supports kids battling cancer, has great ideas, from virtual lemonade stands to gathering donations for playing video games. You could even run in a virtual race (this one you have to get off the couch for!) outside or on the treadmill to support your favorite organization, complete with running bib, competitive results and a cool medal.