By Holly Garcia
Being a volunteer means that you are selflessly offering your assistance. Most of the time, to volunteer also means that you are working side by side with others. This connects you to other individuals who are working with you toward a common goal. When you volunteer, you are making connections and difference to someone or even a community as a whole. During a pandemic there is a lot of uncertainty. These are trying times as millions have been laid off from work and do not have any means of their own to provide for themselves or their families. Necessities such as food and baby supplies are hard for people to afford but the demand for these products still exist and that’s where community programs come into play. Since March 14th, 2020 I have volunteered close to 200 hours with various food pantries, school services and elderly centers. I have spent every single day giving back to my community helping children, adults and elderly. This pandemic is not discriminating. Even though those over the age of 65 years-old are more at risk for catching COVID-19, children, teens and adults are all faced with some type of hardship during these times whether it is actually getting sick, being laid off from work or struggling to provide essential items to their families. While schools remain closed for the year, parents are struggling to provide breakfast and lunch to their children who normal would receive both meals during school hours. There are many types of volunteer positions available at this time but the job descriptions are not exactly something that we are used to. To follow CDC guidelines with social distancing, volunteers who attend in person food delivery services are required to wear masks, gloves and to wash their hands frequently. Most food distribution centers are operating outdoors where they are able to chalk off lines on the sidewalk that are 6 feet apart so those attending adhere to social distancing guidelines. Distribution centers for the elderly have been occurring in a drive-thru setting in order to protect those individuals in need of food with a contactless option. Aside from the actual virus, the biggest concern for those in these trying times revolve around food. Where so many people are out of work, they are now faced with a challenge to provide food for their families. More stress was added when grocery stores were beginning to dwindle in their supplies. Of course, we all know about the toilet paper shortage but with production being put on a hold due to facilities being closed down, staff members getting sick, there was also a shortage of meats and produce. There has been a much larger demand at food pantries than what some may be used to so not only are they in need for more food donations but they are also in need of volunteers. There are ways for you to give back during these times. If you’re comfortable, reach out to a local food pantry and see if they are in need of more volunteers. For those individuals who are sick and confined to their homes, many cities and towns have created programs for food delivery. Reach out to your local Mayor’s office to see if your area is offering these services and sign up to deliver that food. Many schools are also offering a food delivery services at this time. These organizations are also in need of funding and a little bit can go a long way so if you have the means, consider making a donation. There are also other ways to give back from home. Some clothing distribution sites have restrictions at this time but once they are lifted they will need donations. While you’re home, clean out your closet, wash the clothes you want to donate and wrap them up in a bag while you wait to find a distribution center to bring them to. There are multiple organizations who take clothing donations, but if you don’t already know of one to donate to do a quick google search to find a site. These times are tough on all of us. Now more than ever members of your community need support. This virus has changed the world as we know it will leave a lasting impression on some even after a vaccine has been developed. No one should go hungry. No one should have to worry about providing food to their families. We’re all in this together and the best way to support your community at this time is to get out and make a difference.