ways to help in rva and beyond during the pandemic

However you're dealing with the current crisis, I want you to know you matter. You're not alone. And together, we've got this.

Like you I'm sure, my future is uncertain. Things here in Richmond and all over the world are evolving so quickly as to make even tomorrow's plans completely up in the air. I'm not working for at least a month, so I'm anxious to see how much damage my career, my finances will sustain. But unlike many, I am lucky to have a healthy immune system and support system; many unfortunately do not have both of these privileges.

This means two things: 1. I suddenly have a lot of time on my hands, and 2. When not resting and taking care of myself, I want to use it to help others.

If you, too, have been blindsided and left wondering how you can channel your anxious energy and newfound free time for good, read on for local and larger-scale ways to get involved* in your community.

*Please, please, please, when deciding how help, prioritize social distancing and review the CDC's guidelines here. Stay home if you are exhibiting any symptoms or think you may have been exposed to the virus. Your kind intentions do more harm than good if they put others at risk.

volunteer to distribute school meals

Richmond Public Schools is still taking volunteers to help pass out breakfasts and lunches for students who may experience food insecurity during school closures. Based on my experiences early this week, they need more help during morning shifts (7:30-10AM) and later this week or next, as food and funds could start to run out in some households.

You must use this HandsOn registration page to sign up for a slot. Do not show up unannounced, A) to increase social distancing and B) because some locations have more than enough volunteers.

check on your neighbors

Reach out to your neighbors, especially seniors who may or may not have consistent visitors or the assistance they need. Of course, a call is preferred if possible. See if they could use any supplies or ask if they'd like you to call and check on them at a regular time.

To this end, Richmond Indigenous Society (RIS) is looking for donations to support local elders. From RIS: "We are still collecting supplies for elders and canned goods, unsweetened oatmeal, shelf stable milk, rice, dried beans, Ensure, new unopened full-size hygiene products, denture cream, over the counter (unopened, not expired) medicine, cleaning supplies, nitrile gloves, face mask, hand sanitizer, hand soap, Clorox, laundry detergent, paper towels, toilet paper, and fresh produce like carrots, potatoes, onions, cabbage, apples and orange are needed." Send RIS a message on Facebook for how to donate funds or for drop-off location.

offer rides, childcare, etc.

...if it makes sense for your location and circumstances and doesn't put others at substantial risk for exposure. A trip to an appointment or some breathing room to figure things out can mean the world to a car-less friend or stressed-out parent.

take care of yourself

Follow the CDC guidelines for personal and public hygiene. Do your best to eat balanced meals and get some exercise indoors or outside, alone if you can. Breathe deeply. Connect to nature in whatever ways you safely can. Get adequate sleep. Drink plenty of water. Clean the house. Share these tips with everyone in your household (read the CDC's advice for talking with children about coronavirus). Practice immune-boosting nature connection at/near home. Take advantage of these wellness companies' free offers:

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."

- Teddy Roosevelt

Sometimes, the best action you can take is "nothing." That's OK. Maybe the most you can offer others right now is to help flatten the curve by laying low, and in self-isolation, the Internet goes a long way. Share the following info with your circles so that more people know about it:

share these resources

  • Richmond's Department of Public Utilities (DPU) will not disconnect water or sewer service due to non-payment during the outbreak.

  • Comcast is offering free internet for two months to low-income families. Apply by April 30, 2020.

  • For Virginia, Maryland, and DC: The Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse (JCADA) is safety planning with people who may be quarantined with their abuser. This anonymous helpline is available during business hours to anyone who needs help (you do not need to be Jewish!), or wants to help a friend: 877-88-JCADA

  • Updates from the Richmond City government website in English and en Español.

  • Virginia Department of Health updates here.

During these unprecedented times, people are uniting in powerful ways. Governments are scrambling and making some good calls, some mistakes and bad decisions. The best we can do is stay informed, avoid spreading misinformation, notice how this steaming pile brings out the best in humanity, and pick up the slack where institutions fail. Whatever steps you're taking, including taking a nap, you're doing great.

Comment below with anything else I should add.