Assisting the local community in the next weeks
March 12, 2020 9:52 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to figure out how to best assist others locally in the next weeks/months.

I'm a cishet white male, 50s, living in Seattle. I'm currently a) in good health, b) in possession of paid time off and c) also in possession of a lot of fear/anxiety about COVID-19.

I'd like to work off some of the anxiety by using a) and b) to help those in need locally. I have both technical and soft skills, and am looking for ideas about how I can volunteer, particular ways to mitigate the impact of this virus for people more vulnerable than myself.

I have contacts in the police department and gender-based violence community, and am donating food to a local agency that serves low-income/people living outside. But I'm looking to do more.

Has anyone done this? Who did you contact? What are you doing? Delivering food? Cleaning up spaces/stores/schools? Writing Excel macros (he asks hopefully)?
posted by Gorgik to Society & Culture (19 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have specific guidance, but I want to say you are on the right track.
posted by Glomar response at 9:56 AM on March 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Maybe check with your neighbors or local old folks' homes.
posted by NotLost at 10:06 AM on March 12, 2020

Best answer: If my workplace and area schools shut down, my plan is to help with making sure that kids in my community who depend on school breakfast and lunch get the food that they need. During a recent teachers’ strike, my town came together by donating snacks and lunches for kids who needed them. Check Nextdoor and Facebook for local people looking for volunteers.
posted by corey flood at 10:06 AM on March 12, 2020 [7 favorites]

Best answer:
posted by Pastor of Muppets at 10:14 AM on March 12, 2020

Best answer: Neighbors first. Can you go shopping for elderly neighbors, to allow them to avoid going out?
posted by praemunire at 10:25 AM on March 12, 2020 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Donate blood, donate blood, donate blood. You will be saving lives for sure, their donations are down some 75% I heard and blood does not keep long and it's vital for health care.

Some food banks experiencing volunteer shortages because their volunteers are, well, old retired people and those are the exact people who should NOT be doing the work right now.
posted by foxfirefey at 10:29 AM on March 12, 2020 [9 favorites]

Best answer:
  • Call your congress people and other elected officials. Make it clear that you want universal health care, paid time off, family leave, etc
  • Write appreciation letters to the managers of any staff person who serves you in any retail or other in person capacity.
  • Encourage the judicial system in your jurisdiction to stop holding misdemeanor court dates (they are often extremely crowded).
  • Offer to phone or text bank for the food banks in your area. What they often need most is cash donations
  • Consider donating blood if you can, many regular donors will stop
  • Any older sheets and towels, donate to the animal shelter near you. Or better, if you have the resources and ability to foster an animal or a litter of kittens, do that. Again, folks who would normally be doing a lot of volunteering may be out of resources/time/energy/health to do so
  • Maybe check if Postcards for Voters or VoteSaveAmerica or Fair Fight have any activities you can work on to move our government in the direction you want to help prevent things like this in the future (restore CDC funding, restore and maintain pandemic research, social safety net, school lunch programs, meals on wheels, etc)
  • If you have any stockpile of hotel toiletries, donate them to a community feeding program. Soaps, lotions, and shampoo, as you know, cannot be bought with WIC or SNAP benefits.
  • Tip any delivery people well
  • If you live in a building with multiple units, consider washing the front door with a soapy rag and a bucket of hot water twice a day.
  • If you're on twitter, seek out people of color to follow, and listen to their concerns, requests, and advice.

posted by bilabial at 10:34 AM on March 12, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Also see this:
Leading with equity in your coronavirus response
posted by NotLost at 10:47 AM on March 12, 2020

Best answer: I am also in the Seattle area and right there with you. I saw that there is a bill coming to the floor of the King County Council to create a volunteer task force, I'm keeping my eye on that and will sign up ASAP when I can.

I love these other suggestions and will keep checking this thread.
posted by pazazygeek at 11:22 AM on March 12, 2020

Best answer: Go spend your money in local businesses. Buy cups of coffee. Eat some Pho. Support an independent business so they can pay their staff instead of cutting hours to non-survivable levels.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:29 AM on March 12, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: There's lots to do in Seattle and surrounding areas - you can sign up here (and for folks who need some assistance, you can sign up for that too).
posted by fleecy socks at 11:38 AM on March 12, 2020

Best answer: Thank you for posting this, I am wondering the same thing.
I’m worried about kids and working parents who are going to have to still work if schools are closed. I know the kids need meals, but they also need supervision . Anyone have ideas for helping these families? I am thinking of offering to host a morning play date at the park - but it seems so ineffectual (it would only be a few hours) and is it not advisable for contagion spread?
posted by areaperson at 11:40 AM on March 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Donate blood! As people worry about gathering in public because of coronavirus, blood donations steadily dwindle (LA Times)
[...] the decrease in donations has been widespread, with the American Assn. of Blood Banks saying that a number of blood drives in the U.S. have been canceled, including one that was expected to collect 500 units — enough to help about 1,500 patients. (Each donation can help roughly three people.)

The American Red Cross, one of AABB’s partners, has also reported cancellations in blood donations. [...] There is currently no shortage of blood supply in the country. But Eduardo Nunes, vice president of quality, standards and accreditation for AABB, said that it would be cause for serious concern if the decline continues for weeks over fears of falling ill to COVID-19.

[...] A blood donation has a shelf life of 42 days. To keep the supply stable, constant donations are necessary.

[...] In Washington state, where at least 11 people have died, the public health department said earlier this week that the coronavirus has affected the state’s blood supply. “The COVID-19 outbreak is starting to impact the blood supply in WA. Anyone who is symptom-free is encouraged to donate blood!” the department tweeted.
posted by katra at 11:44 AM on March 12, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm also in Seattle. You may already know this given your connections, but the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center lost 1/3 of its annual operating budget by canceling the Be Loud benefit breakfast. They're one of the only rape crisis centers in the country that offers evidence-based treatments for PTSD and they're a critical resource here. You can donate to them here.

As I'm sure you know, a lot of small businesses are suffering or closing, especially in the International District. I'm trying to keep going out to eat, tipping extra when I do, sending money to my friends who live off of tips, and not asking for refunds on events and classes I'm skipping.

If you have immunocompromised friends, reach out to ask how you can help. Can you run errands for them or send them a pizza to reduce the amount they have to go outside? A friend of mine who's going through chemo has a Meal Train, and I've been keeping an eye on it to make sure they're not without a delivery for too long.

Check out your neighborhood Facebook page for hyperlocal ideas. On the Wallingford/Fremont page, a lot of people are offering to tutor/babysit kids so parents can keep going to work.
posted by quiet coyote at 11:55 AM on March 12, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Depending on your skills, you might be able to get involved through Public Health - there’s a survey going around about skills and availability that I’ll send you if you MeMail me! (I work at Public Health.)
posted by centrifugal at 12:05 PM on March 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: People will need help with connectivity technology. Not sure how you find those people though.

Lots of people need help working out how to work or do school work from home. Also, older people who are feeling lonely would probably like to know how to use their phone to video call people, for example.

If you've got a local community notice board, maybe you could put up a sign?
posted by kjs4 at 10:46 PM on March 12, 2020

Best answer: The Seattle COVID Mutual Aid network is collecting names/contact info for people who are willing to help out their neighbors in various ways. Sign up here!
posted by quiet coyote at 7:20 AM on March 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all. Excellent all around. I think I'm beginning to settle on addressing food insecurity, but still looking at other options.

Also, for those that might not know, you can only donate blood every 56 days, but you can donate platelets, which are just as important, every 7 days (and can do blood within 3 of platelets). Platelet donation takes longer (about two hours, depending on various factors) but is important, and when I called Bloodworks to schedule an appointment, they asked that I do platelets first. I don't think donation centers generally suggest platelet donation until you've been donating blood for a while, but you can ask about it on your own.

I love Metafilter, and it's denizens. Please take care of yourselves and those around you.
posted by Gorgik at 7:58 AM on March 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

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