Helping the community: Holiday volunteering during COVID

design: Emma Thompson

As the winter holidays approach, many people are taking the opportunity to give back to their community by volunteering. However, COVID-19 has made it significantly more difficult.

Many people are more reluctant to go out and volunteer for fear of catching or spreading the virus. But there are still many ways to get involved.

“If you’re comfortable with working in contact with other people, there are plenty of places in need of volunteers,” junior and Vice President of Interact Club Abby Schroff said. “And if you aren’t comfortable, there are plenty of places in need of donations.”

Interact Club is a group that focuses on volunteering and helping out around the community. They are still an active club this year that is finding ways to volunteer even with the current restrictions and safety guidelines.

“This year there are a few changes, such as not being able to volunteer at the nursing home. However, it has opened up more opportunities for us, such as creating a mentoring program for kids to work with elementary school kids on their hybrid days,” Schroff said.

Many places within the community are also having to work within COVID guidelines while providing for people in need. Broad Street Food Pantry (760 E Broad St, Columbus, OH) is one of these places.

“We still have about half of our staff volunteering, and we have protocols in place to make it as safe as possible,” Director Kathy Kelly-Long said. “All volunteers have to wear masks, do a temperature check upon arrival and wash hands frequently. We’ve also established on-site delivery so there’s very minimal contact with the actual people shopping.”

Food pantries and soup kitchens are also finding themselves having to provide for more people, as COVID-19 has led to many job losses, leaving some families in need of extra support.

“We see a lot of people who have shopped at the pantry before, but we’ve also seen a lot of people who’ve never been in the pantry before because they don’t have the resources anymore,” Kelly-Long said.

Volunteering is a great way to help out the people in need in the community. There are many opportunities available, even with COVID-19. Youth volunteers are welcome at Broad Street and there are many other in-person and online opportunities for students to help others.

“A key consequence to prolonged school closures could be learning gaps,” according to Sterling Volunteers. “Many organizations nationwide are focused on bridging this gap and have volunteer tutoring opportunities available.”

Online volunteering is a great way to help others without risk of contracting COVID-19, but it’s not the only option. There are many opportunities from home as well. Donating to food banks and homeless shelters is a great way to support the community with minimal contact with the outside world.

“The majority of network food banks report seeing a record increase in the number of people needing help, with an average increase of 60 percent across the country,” according to Feeding America.

Many people are still finding unique ways to give back to the community in this time of need.

“A lot of people have taken the pandemic as a chance to reflect on everything they are thankful for, which has resulted in there being more donations to food pantries,” Schroff said.

There are so many great ways to get involved and support the community during the pandemic, it’s just about finding one that’s safe.