Monday, March 23, 2020

Volunteering in the Time of Coronavirus

How can we come together when we’re supposed to be six feet apart?

People are finding creative ways to bridge the gap and strengthen our community.

Around Bergen County

Friends and neighbors throughout Bergen County are reaching out to those in need. Here are just a few stories of what individuals are doing to help:

Maintaining our mental wellness during a pandemic is just as important as protecting our physical health. Many people are using live streaming and video services to provide activities to keep our bodies and minds active.

Hackensack High School might have canceled classes, but student Ryan Ang isn’t treating his time off as a vacation. As one of the youngest basketball trainers, he is using his skills to provide free lessons via Instagram Live.

Judy Cohen, the owner of The Paint Box in Oradell, is offering online painting classes for students who are stuck at home. She is also collecting monetary donations to send care packages of art supplies to local senior citizens. She can be reached at if you would like to donate.

Restaurants are also stepping up to feed people who are facing food insecurity. If you order a “cheeseburger with love" or "hot dog with love” at Steve’s Burgers in Garfield your meal is free with the purchase of a drink.

You may be wondering what you can personally contribute. There are many opportunities to give back that keep everyone safe and healthy.

Social Distancing ≠ Social Isolation

Even before social distancing became an unfortunate necessity, 43% of adults aged 65 or above reported that they struggled with loneliness on a regular basis. Since this population is the most likely to develop severe complications from COVID-19, many are under strict orders to self-isolate from family and friends. Nursing homes and other long-term health facilities have temporarily barred visitors throughout the state to protect their residents.

This is a difficult time to be a volunteer, knowing that often the best way to help is to be hands-off. Many of us volunteer because we like to personally see the impact we are making and meet with the people we are helping face-to-face. However, there are ways that you can help right from your couch.

How You Can Help

1. Call a Senior

Now is a perfect time to catch up with a loved one over the phone. Take a few minutes each day to check in on a senior family member or neighbor. See if they need groceries or help to schedule telehealth appointments. There are also services like CHEER or Umbrella that will match you with a senior in your community who would be overjoyed to talk to you. Councilwoman Bernadette Walsh of Ridgewood is running a similar “Adopt a Senior” program.

2. Donate Funds to a Local Food Pantry

With schools no longer in session and many workers’ hours being cut, food pantries are seeing an uptick in demand. Rather than donating canned goods, monetary donations will stretch your dollar further. Food pantries have the opportunity to purchase goods wholesale, sometimes even at a discount which means they can get more bang for your buck. When in-house volunteers do the shopping and sorting, fewer people are handling donations which limit the possibility of the disease spreading.

3. Crafting for Good

Kids restless and bored at home? Flex your creative muscles and work together with them on a craft project that will brighten someone’s day. Check with your local senior living facility to see if they are accepting handmade cards and letters.

Know of any other programs helping those in need? Let us know in the comments below!

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