With statewide shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders in effect, most of us find ourselves in quarantine – whether we like it or not. And while it’s a stressful time for all of us, there are many families that have found quarantine to be a chance to slow down a bit. If our economic situation is relatively stable, it might even be a welcome chance to spend more time with family, reset priorities, and gain a little perspective. As we turn inward a bit more, volunteering may not be top of mind.
However, there are many others that are experiencing a very different scenario. Loss of income caused by business shutdowns has led to incredible financial stress for small businesses and created increased food insecurity for already vulnerable populations. Likewise, there are some families that are not able to participate in a full quarantine. Essential workers, including those in healthcare and retail industries still in operation, find themselves fearful of exposure not only to themselves, but to their families and they worry about a shortage of supplies and resources.
The simple fact is that people need help more than ever.
We know that the need for volunteering has not gone away, but with social distancing rules in place, many of us are wondering how we can help. Many volunteer organizations have been forced to cease normal operations due to health concerns, fundraisers have been put on hold, and regular volunteer opportunities have dried up. Fortunately, there are still ways to give back to the community and support those in need.
And because April is National Volunteer Month, we not only wanted to highlight some of the many ways you can volunteer – even from home – but we also wanted to recognize the thousands of ongoing volunteers right here in Richmond who give tirelessly of their time, money, and energy to ensure that everyone in our community has the help they need.
Be sure to check out our highlighted volunteer opportunities below, and if you don’t find something that suits, visit HandsOn Greater Richmond to find ongoing volunteer opportunities with hundreds of organizations throughout the Richmond area.
Here are five ways you can continue volunteering in Richmond – even during quarantine:
1. Donate and Volunteer with Local Food-Relief Organizations
While Greater Richmond area food banks and food-relief organizations have had to alter their normal operating procedures for the time being, they are still dedicated to providing much needed supplies for those experiencing food insecurity, including families, children, the elderly, and shut-ins. The following leading food-relief organizations are all offering ways for your to volunteer while maintaining social distancing practices.
- Monetary Donations: Currently, the Chesterfield Food Bank is in greatest need of monetary donations. They are able to obtain $5 of food for every $1 donated, thus increasing their ability to stock and manage their provisions. If you would like to donate, please visit their donation page.
- Volunteering Opportunities: While physical volunteers are still needed to help manage their food distribution programs (including drive-thru pick-ups), they are limiting volunteers to those 16 and older who are in good health. To sign up or learn more, visit their volunteer page. You can also view their current distribution schedules and locations here.
As one of the core nonprofit organizations in Central Virginia, Feed More has continued to be deemed and essential business, allowing them to continue their vital operations. As such, their staff, Agency Network members, and volunteers can continue to collect, prepare and distribute food to our neighbors in their times of need. Here’s how you can be part of their important mission:
- Monetary Donations: Monetary donations are critical – and always welcome. Every dollar donated provides up to four meals and allows them to provide life-saving services. If you would like to learn more about monetary donation options, including online fundraisers, visit their Individual Giving page.
- Food Donations: Feed More continues to offer several drop-off locations for non-perishable food items in Richmond. Currently, their main drop-off site is located in the parking lot of 1601 Rhoadmiller St. A POD is typically available for non-contact drop-off, however, if the POD is not open, you can leave your donation in any of the orange donation bins located on their around campus. If your donation is perishable or over 500 pounds, please contact them to schedule a donation time. For more drop-off locations, most needed items, and other important notices, visit their Giving Food page.
- Volunteering Opportunities: Feed More serves many members of the community, including children, the elderly, and shut-ins. If you would like to volunteer in Feed More’s Community Kitchen, with their Meals on Wheels program, or in the Packing and Sorting Center, please read our responsible volunteering guidelines and complete their volunteer application. All volunteers must be over 16, in good health, and ideally, not have any at-risk members in their household.
Nearly 22 million low-income children around the country rely on free and reduced-price meals provided by schools. In Virginia alone, nearly 18 million meals have been missed since schools closed and more than 450,000 kids have been affected by the loss. Fortunately, No Kid Hungry continues to work to provide these much needed meals. While they do not accept food donations, they are able to turn every $10 in donations into up to 100 meals for children in need.
All of Virginia’s 132 school districts are currently offering distribution programs. Across the state, there are over 900 food distribution sites run by school districts and community organizations working to connect students with meals. School divisions are offering a variety of food distribution models to help safely connect students with meals, including “Grab and Go” service at schools and food delivery along bus routes.
- Monetary Donations: To donate, visit the No Kid Hungry donation page. Also keep in mind that from now until April 30, PepsiCo will match your donation up to one million dollars.
- Notify a Family in Need: if you or a family you know are in need, you can contact No Kid Hungry Virginia by texting FOOD or COMIDA to 877-877 to find free food sites organized by school districts and other community organizations or visit your school division’s website for meal distribution details.
- Monetary Donations: Donations in any amount are being accepted – and are urgently needed – to allow The Salvation Army to continue supporting those in need, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. To give monetary donations, visit their donations page.
- Food Donations (and other needed items): Supplies are needed now more than ever. To donate non-perishable food or diapers/formula, contact your local Salvation Army. You can find a list of local resource centers here: http://virginiasalvationarmy.org/locations/
While these are just three of the main food and assistance programs in the Greater Richmond, there are many more organizations that are doing what they can to fight food insecurity during the COVID-19 crisis. Be sure to visit our list of Food Pantries in Greater Richmond to learn about additional organizations and contact them directly to see how you can help.
2. Give Blood
Quarantine and social distancing is creating a shortage in many areas – including our blood banks. The American Red Cross has placed an urgent call for blood donations as the need for blood has not decreased and many patients, new and existing, are in critical need. One of the best ways of volunteering right now is simple – give blood, platelets, and plasma.
However, keep in mind that to meet the health requirements of the current situation and to support social distancing, the American Red Cross does require scheduled appointments. Currently, they are working hard to open new donation sites and recommend searching up to 14 days out. If you are in good health and eligible to give blood, please consider scheduling an appointment to donate blood, platelets, and AB elite plasma.
*If you are a fully recovered COVID-19 patient, you may be eligible to donate plasma to help current COVID-19 patients.
Medical research has shown that people who have fully recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies in their plasma that can attack the virus. The American Red Cross is currently working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to evaluate “convalescent” plasma from recovered patients as a treatment source for those currently suffering with severe, or potentially severe, COVID-19 infections. If you are fully recovered, please click here to learn more about how you can help.
3. Support Vital Community Services by Donating to the Central Virginia COVID-19 Response Fund
The Central Virginia COVID-19 Response Fund, started by the Community Foundation and the Emergency Management Alliance of Central Virginia, stepped up at the start of the crisis to provide essential support to community organizations and public agencies that continue to meet the needs of individuals and families most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Their primary goal is to support organizations and public agencies that are addressing urgent needs associated with the pandemic such as health care, housing, food access, childcare and senior care. Already, they have awarded more than $1.1 million in grants to support front line organizations, including those that offer the following:
- safety net clinics to help with increased staffing, conversion to telehealth delivery and coordinating safe access to appointments and medication
- homeless service providers for staffing, supply costs and new shelter options
- staffing costs and cleaning supplies for a domestic violence shelter and the Essential Personnel Childcare Center
- distribution of meals to food-insecure individuals, including children and seniors
While the Central Virginia COVID-19 Response Fund is not creating specific physical volunteering positions themselves, they do provide resources to connect you to other organizations that may need help. Be sure to visit the Community Foundation website for more information and remember that monetary donations are a great, easy way to volunteer, especially now!
Monetary Donations: Your donations today will help support the Central Virginia COVID-19 Response Fund now and in the future, allowing them to continue to provide support as the long term effects of the pandemic continue. To donate, click here.*
*Please note that United Way will also be matching up to $100,000 in donations made to the fund through their website.
4. Volunteer Online
In our wonderful world of technology, we have the chance to access nearly anything from home – even volunteer opportunities! HandsOn Greater Richmond has long been a trusted source for volunteer opportunities, providing hundreds of ways for adults, children, and families to give back in their community. It’s thanks to them that we’ve found the following virtual / online volunteering resources:
Book Share – Bookshare helps people with dyslexia, blindness, cerebral palsy, and other reading barriers gain access to the written word. Donate your time and skills by scanning, proofreading, describing images, or providing support for Bookshare teachers and families
Hire Heroes – Hire Heroes USA provides free job search assistance to U.S. military members, veterans and military spouses transitioning out of the military. You can volunteer help them by conducting mock interviews, providing career counseling and more. Click here to see current volunteer needs.
Smithsonian Digital Volunteer – Smithsonian Digital Volunteers help the Smithsonian make historical documents and biodiversity data more accessible by transcribing field notes, diaries, ledgers, logbooks, currency proof sheets, photo albums, manuscripts, biodiversity specimens labels, and more. You can choose from thousands of projects and partner with other volunteers to learn best tips and tricks.
Zooniverse – Zooniverse allows individuals to participate in research of all kinds, from classifying galaxies to counting penguins to transcribing manuscripts. Choose from thousands of projects and contribute as much or as little as you would like. Learn more about volunteer opportunities here.
Points of Light Virtual Volunteering Opportunities – Points of Light is the world’s largest volunteer network. During Global Volunteer Month (April), they are highlighting virtual volunteerism as a means of continuing their support throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Find ways you can volunteer near you, or around the world, here.
Good Deeds Day Virtual Volunteering Opportunities –While Good Deed Day typically highlights a single day each year to do good deeds for those in your community, they continuously provide ideas and ways to enact kindness throughout the year. Click here for their list of ways to volunteer online or virtually during the current crisis.
5. Simply be a good neighbor
Volunteering doesn’t have to be a grand act or require much money or time. It can be as simple as checking in on those around you. If you have elderly neighbors or family members, you can call them to see what they might need. Perhaps you can mow their lawn or do other yard work. Maybe you can pick up groceries to leave on their doorstep the next time you’re at the store. Have a sewing machine? Make masks for local healthcare workers, as well as friends and family. Volunteering can even be as simple as taking some sidewalk chalk with you on your next family walk and leaving encouraging messages in your neighbors’ driveways.
Just remember that during this crisis, whether you’re in quarantine or you’re on the front lines, we can all find ways to bring joy to those around us. Whether it’s providing food to those in need, giving blood, donating money to vital organizations, volunteering our professional skills, or simply doing small acts for those near us, every little bit counts. We are all experiencing this crisis differently, but we’re all in it together. And together, we can come out on the other side as happier, kinder versions of ourselves.
For more Richmond area resources, be sure to visit our entire Best of Richmond series – only on Richmond Mom!