Including ideas that don't require leaving the house. 

By Katie Holdefehr
Updated March 17, 2020

As COVID-19 continues to spread across the country and world, many of us are feeling some stress and a sense of helplessness about the situation. But one of my favorite coping mechanisms—you know, besides the stress baking—is to remember that there are still ways we can help one another during these uncertain times. As we know by now, the best way to help slow down the spread of the virus or "flatten the curve" is to stay home and practice social distancing as much as possible. While it may not feel like sitting on our sofas, washing our hands, and disinfecting everything in sight is a heroic act, it's the best way to protect ourselves and those who are most vulnerable in our communities right now.

Looking for another way to help out? Check out the seven ideas below, most which don't require leaving the house at all.

Donate to food pantries.

As you're stocking up on pasta, frozen veggies, and endless rolls of toilet paper, consider those who either can't afford to buy lots of groceries all at once or who are physically unable to go to the store. Now's a great time to donate supplies or money to food pantries. Luckily, many large organizations, such as Feeding America, actually prefer money donations, which can be made online or over the phone, so you can contribute to the cause without leaving your house.

If you'd prefer to donate to your local food bank, give them a quick call first (or check their website) to see if it's better to donate money or supplies. When I called my neighborhood food pantry, I was surprised that they asked for items rather than money, but this may help smaller organizations skip the step of shopping for supplies. It's also a good idea to ask if there's anything specific, like toilet paper or cleaning supplies, that they may need more of right now.

Consider donating to Meals on Wheels, which delivers both hot and frozen meals to seniors across the country. Some areas may also be in need of more volunteers to help deliver meals, so if you're interested, talk to your local program.

Nearly 22 million children in the U.S. rely on free or reduced-price meals provided at schools. Consider making a donation to No Kid Hungry, which has deployed $5 million in emergency grants to help provide meals for children as many schools across the country close.

Help family members or neighbors get supplies.

Reach out to family members or neighbors who may need help getting necessary supplies. If you live far away from an older family member, you may be able to held coordinate a grocery delivery so they won't have to leave the house.

If you're heading out to the store yourself, check with your neighbors to see if you can pick up groceries for them as well. As we all stay closer to home in the coming weeks, it's a great time to connect with our neighbors and support our hyper-local community.

Stay in touch with vulnerable friends and family.

Even though we can't physically be together right now, it's more important than ever to stay connected to family and friends to reduce stress and offer emotional support. Call, FaceTime, email, or even send snail mail, particularly to those who may need it most, such as seniors, children and teens, health care providers, and those with mental health conditions. And especially as nursing homes and jails restrict visitors, consider other ways to keep in touch. Check out the CDC's page for tips on how to help yourself and others deal with the stress and isolation of quarantine.

As everyone is encouraged to stay home, experts say there could be an increase in domestic abuse, which is also known to increase during times of financial hardship. In Jingzhou, a city in the Hubei Province of China, the number of domestic violence cases reported to a local police station tripled in February 2020, compared to the same period of time last year, according to Axios. Help spread the word that the National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached 24/7 by phone, online chat, or text message. Visit their site for tips on how to help a loved one.

Donate blood.

If you are healthy, eligible to donate blood, and feel you can get to a blood center safely, consider donating blood. Especially since many blood drives scheduled across the country have been canceled due to the coronavirus, organizations are in desperate need of blood, platelets, and plasma donations.

Before you go, please note that there have been some rumors floating around that donating blood will get you a free coronavirus test. However, many blood centers are not equipped with tests, and there is currently no evidence that this respiratory disease can be transmitted by blood donation or transfusion.

Help support health care workers.

Frontline health care workers have been reporting a shortage of protective supplies and diagnostic tests at many hospitals. Consider donating to the World Health Organization's (COVID-19) Solidarity Response Fund, which was set up to help supply countries around the world with supplies and tests. Also consider giving to Doctors Without Borders, which responds to medical humanitarian emergencies around the world.

Now is a great time to reach out to all of the nurses, doctors, and other health care providers in your life to let them know you're there.

Support local and small businesses.

As restaurants, bars, and stores close in an attempt to help stop the spread of COVID-19, we've compiled a list of ways to continue to support the local businesses you care about. Things like buying gift cards to use later or purchasing merch online can help keep these businesses afloat and their employees paid.

If you have the means to do so, also consider continuing to pay hairstylists, manicurists, tutors, house cleaners, and other service industry workers who you regularly hire.