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How to help during the pandemic

COVID-19 has many of us panicking, and more of us wondering what we can do to actually make a difference. Here, our regularly updated guide offers a few ways to start.

As Covid-19 spreads in Philadelphia and we head into a new month of uncertainty, we here at The Citizen continue to hear from communities in need—and those who are determined to help them.

It’s during times like these when Philly shows its best self—when neighbors band together to support their independent stores, when community organizations pivot from serving one need to filling a more time-sensitive one, and when every Philadelphian has the drive and the power to make a difference.

Here, an ongoing and regularly-updated list of ways you can help. If you or your organization has an initiative you’d like to share with The Citizen, please email [email protected] with the subject “COVID-19 Support.”

We hope you stay healthy, safe, and strong, and that these tips empower you to make sure our city comes out stronger on the other side.

DO ALL THE RECOMMENDED THINGS TO LIMIT THE SPREAD

First things first: It’s up to us to do everything we can to slow the virus—washing hands and staying home. You’ve heard it all before, but the CDC has a great primer here.

DONATE TO THE CITY’S COVID-19 RESPONSE FUND

On March 19th, the city announced a partnership with area foundations and businesses to create a fund for area nonprofits serving people in need during the crisis. Seeded with an initial $6.5 million from United Way, Philadelphia Foundation, William Penn Foundation and others, the fund is accepting donations as low as $25, 100 percent of which will go to nonprofits.

CHECK ON NEIGHBORS, ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO ARE ELDERLY

Keep your distance in order to keep them safe, but call, text, Facebook message, stand on the stoop and talk through a crack in the door. The elderly are the most vulnerable, and also often the most in need of things like medications and other household items, and may need help bringing those home from the drugstore or corner market.

Organizers at Philly We Rise created a mutual aid survey where you can offer services—like prescription pick-up, grocery delivery, transportation and direct monetary donation—to your neighbors. You can also join your neighborhood Facebook group to find out who and how you can help.

The Philadelphia Corporation for the Aging is continuing to operate with a limited staff in order to help the elderly who depend on their delivered meals. They are asking supporters to consider donating to their Rodney D. Williams Philadelphia Fund for Seniors, which is their primary source of revenue, or to their Emergency Fund for Older Philadelphians, contributing to food, fuel, and medical supplies for the agency.

Senior Citizens United Community Services is keeping its doors open during this crisis, but asks that volunteers or the general public limit themselves showing up one person at a time, versus in any kind of group. They need volunteers to help prepare and deliver food, shop for those who can’t leave their homes, and with clerical support within their office. Those interested in volunteering can call 856-456-1121. 

And Kleinlife, which operates in North Philadelphia, is asking for drivers willing to deliver home meals to their over 600 elderly clients within the community for the next two weeks. Volunteers will receive a schedule over the phone, latex gloves, packed meals, and routes outside of their building to reduce exposure. They ask that anyone who is over the age of 65, has any medical conditions, or any symptoms not volunteer. Those interested can email [email protected] for more information.

SUPPORT THE HOMELESS

Project HOME is asking Philadelphians to check out their in-kind needs here, and is in particular need of bottled water; toiletries like soap, lotion, shampoo, deodorant, Clorox wipes, and any hand sanitizer you can get your hands on; hygiene items like clean underwear and socks; as well as non-perishable food, particularly for people who rely on the organization’s Hub of Hope. In the spirit of social distancing, you can shop for their needs via their Amazon wishlist here.

With the situation evolving daily, they’re grateful for any financial contributions, to help cover the costs of unpredictable needs as they arise. And they’re also asking folks to make masks for their 1,000 residents; they’re hoping to get each resident two masks. Get more info on that initiative here. This week we’re asking folks to make masks for us. We have about 1,000 residents and we’re trying to get them two masks each, so 2,000 masks. And we’ll always take more than that

Salvation Army is also serving the hungry and homeless at their shelters, and is grateful for any donations you can make here.

And The Sunday Love Project is now serving meals to go, instead of sit-down meals, for those in need. They’re looking for a small number of volunteers to make sandwiches or snack bags for the homeless, especially in Kensington. They’re also requesting specific food donations, which donors can find on their Amazon Wish List. (To minimize the number of volunteers during social distancing, please reach out here first before showing up.)

(VIRTUALLY) TIP YOUR SERVERS

The Philly Virtual Tip Jar has a growing list of restaurant workers who lost their jobs, at least for now, because of the city shutdown on all non-essential businesses. You can go here to find a server you know or someone from a restaurant you frequent and donate to them directly via PayPal.

A similar project, Hope for Hospitality Relief Fund is picking up where the Philly Restaurant Server Relief Fund has left off, aiming to send $400 a week to about 25 laid off restaurant workers during the shutdown. (The Relief Fund raised nearly $40,000 in two weeks.)

 Save Philly Eats partners with local restaurateurs to offer special (post-coronavirus) events, like a six-course home dinner with Laurel’s Nick Elmi (for $6,000). All the funds raised now go directly to helping the restaurants stay or re-open after the quarantine. 

Fuel the Fight raises money to pay restaurants to make meals and deliver them to hospitals in the area, including Temple, Penn, Jefferson and Bryn Mawr, helping both groups in need right now.

And Takeout COVID lets you order food, cocktails, wine, and beer for delivery or take-out as a way to keep 600+ local restaurants. in business.

FEED THOSE IN NEED & GET FOOD IF YOU NEED IT

With 700,000 food-insecure people in the region, Philabundance has been named an essential agency, and will remain open during the pandemic. Right now, they’re in dire need of healthy volunteers, who can sign up here.  (While Philabundance is taking every measure to keep their facilities sanitary, they understand that immunocompromised volunteers should not be out and about at this time.) They also need donations to ramp up their food distribution, some of which is in partnership with the City.

You can find free food pickup points here, and families with students in the District can visit the 30 city-wide sites for free breakfast and lunch.

The other meaningful way to support their efforts is to donate online. Now is not the time for food drives or food donations: Donated money can go further given Philabundance’s bulk-buying power, and can be tailored to the specific needs they know the community has.

The Narberth Community Food Bank has closed its offices while they deal with the crisis, but their essential food bank remains open. They are asking for monetary donations, food donations based on their “Most Needed” list, and for help packing and delivering bags. Email [email protected] for more information.

TEND TO YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

In times of uncertainty, the one in five of all of us who cope with mental health issues may be struggling even more than usual. You can’t help others if you’re not helping yourself, whether that means reaching out to your mental health provider via phone or tele-conference, making sure your prescriptions are filled, and reaching out for support. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has created this COVID-19 resource page, and if you are in crisis, crisis, text CRISIS to 741741 to be connected to a trained crisis counselor for free, confidential support 24/7.

TEND TO OTHERS’ EMOTIONS, TOO

The New York Times ran this helpful piece on helping teens cope with coronavirus-related anxiety, recognizing that while tensions are running high for everyone, teens are particularly (and neurobiologically) prone to even more acute distress.

And 7 Cups, a national online therapy service that aids people suffering from stress, anxiety, depression, and more, for free, 24/7, welcomes volunteers from all around the U.S. to join its ranks. “Volunteer listeners” must be caring and compassionate, and will receive training to help those in need over the phone. Sign up to volunteer here.

CALL SOMEONE

We can’t gather in person so much for a bit, which can be especially hard for those who live alone, and might feel cut off. Even a 15-minute FaceTime call can help someone feel connected and loved. You are on your phone anyway; use it for good.

DONATE SUPPLIES TO HOSPITALS

Like everywhere in the country, Philly healthcare workers are in dire need of personal protective gear to keep them safe from the virus. If you have some, consider giving them to our local hospitals. Here’s a list of how to do that.

You can also pitch in to make cloth face masks, as many folks are doing to help. See here for a tutorial on how to do that, and patterns to use.

CONTRIBUTE TO PUBLIC ART PROJECTS

The all-volunteer project Fill The Walls With Hope put out a call for artists and poets to create works to be installed around town. You can join in by making your own piece of art, supplying a building on which to hang large wheatpaste installations, donating or just downloading a print to hang in your window.

Or, join nearly 3,000 Philadelphians in the One Philly Coronavirus Public Art Project by using a prompt posted every week to create a work of art around a common theme—and then, of course, display for the world to see.

DONATE MONEY

Call the nonprofits you believe in, and find out how you can support them at a time when fundraisers like galas, events, and drives are understandably canceled. Now more than ever, nonprofit organizations need funding to carry out their meaningful work.

SUPPORT LOCAL STORES AND THEIR EMPLOYEES

This is always a good thing to do, but even more important now, when local businesses are likely to suffer from social isolation. Check on your local go-tos, and ask whether they’re open for online business, how you can (safely) support them with gift cards or in other ways.

You can buy an e-gift card bundle  for a group of Philly businesses at loveyourlocal.org, organized by Jordan Denny, founder of Momentary Ink Company#ShareYour50, organized by Anna Purcell of Manayunk’s Threads on Main, encourages shoppers to spend $10 each at their five favorite local stores. Adam Erace, owner of recently-shuttered Green Aisle Grocery, launched #Five4Fifty, encouraging shoppers to spend $5 a day at a small business for the next 50 days. And Circles of Aunts & Uncles has set up a GoFundMe to support local businesses, and put together a guide for how you can help them.

HELP PETS

The Pennsylvania SPCA is in need of financial donations. As with Philabundance, dollars go further than in-kind food donations, however they’re always in need of treats, toys, and blankets. And ACCT Philly is asking Philadelphians to consider fostering long-term, fulfilling donation requests on ACCT Philly’s Amazon Wish List, or adopting. Find more info here.

For your own pets, be sure you have enough food (and, for cats, litter), and check in with elderly neighbors to ensure they do too; if neighbors who are quarantined or elderly have animals with medical issues, helping transport their pets to appointments can be crucial.

The Humane Society of the United States has been supporting residents of North Philadelphia who are part of their Pets for Life program with pet food, medication, and emergency veterinary care. Support their work here.

CONSIDER GIVING BLOOD

American Red Cross Eastern Pennsylvania tells us that their most important need right now is blood donors; they’re facing a severe blood shortage, and desperately need healthy donors. If you’re well and able, you can schedule an appointment to give blood by visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-REDCROSS.

SUPPORT DOMESTIC WORKERS

The National Domestic Workers Alliance has set up the Coronavirus Care Fund with the goal of raising $4 million to support in-home care workers, nannies, and house cleaners; the fund will provide immediate financial support to these oft-overlooked workers, giving them a safety net that will enable them to stay home, and stay safe. Donate here.

With additional reporting by Kiersten A. Adams, Kellie Brown, and Katherine Rapin

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