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Ways to Help Your Neighbors During Coronavirus

Updated: 
Thursday, March 19, 9:31 am
Pooja Salhotra
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Houston Food Bank

The Houston Food Bank is one of several local organizations mobilizing to support individuals and communities affected by the coronavirus. They are seeking volunteers as well as donations. (Photo courtesy of the Houston Food Bank) 

It’s perhaps an understatement that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has disrupted all of our lives. From travel restrictions, to the closure of bars and dining in restaurants, to virtual classes and working from home, nothing is quite the same. But if history has taught us anything, it’s that the only way to get through a crisis is by supporting one another. 

We’ve already seen a number of Houstonians take the lead. Houston Texans player J.J. Watt and professional soccer player Kealia Ohai donated $350,000 to the Houston Food Bank; Astros outfielder George Springer donated $100,000 for Minute Maid Park employees put out of work due to the pandemic; H-E-B committed $3 million to support organizations helping the most vulnerable residents impacted by the virus.  

Even if you don’t have thousands of dollars to spare, there are many ways to help others in this trying time. Here are some ideas to get you started:  

Volunteer your time (if you can do so safely): Perhaps you have some extra time on your hands these days. Several organizations are looking for volunteers. 

  • The Houston Food Bank is asking for volunteers to help pack quarantine food kits. To sign up for a volunteer shift, register online at houstonfoodbank.org. Note that extreme measures are being taken to keep volunteers safe, including extra sanitation stations, social distancing measures and washing and re-gloving every hour. 
  • Mattress Mack is helping Houston-area seniors by donating non-perishable items, cleaning supplies and toiletries to senior citizens. You can help by volunteering to drop off the items at their homes or by donating goods. Click here for more info.

Donate blood: As the number of coronavirus cases increase, the number of people eligible to give blood decreases. In addition, many blood drives across the country are being cancelled due to concerns around community spread. If you’re healthy, consider donating blood to your local Red Cross. To learn more, visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). 

Support local businesses: On Monday, March 16, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo ordered all Houston bars and restaurants to close for the next 15 days to curb coronavirus exposure. Bars and nightclubs must close while restaurants can only offer pickup and drive-through service. Small businesses and restaurants often have thin margins, and even short-term closures can have dramatic effects. To help offset some of their losses, consider ordering delivery or to-go or purchasing a gift card from your favorite local restaurant. You can also support rodeo Houston vendors, who are selling their goods online.

Check in on a vulnerable relative, friend or neighbor: Do you have an elderly neighbor? Give them a call or knock on their door to make sure they are doing okay. Ask them if you can help with picking up groceries or prescription medications or setting up grocery delivery for them. 

Support our Medical Professionals: Thousands of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals are spending long hours in hospitals, on the front lines treating patients during this global pandemic. Many are working at hospitals where medical supplies - including gloves, masks and ventilators - are in short supply and are even expected to run out. You can support the medical community in a number of ways. Several donation drives are coming up - including one in Bellaire and one at Memorial City Mall - where you can either sign up to volunteer, or help by dropping off supplies such as unused hand sanitizer and N95 masks. KPRC is also collecting heartfelt thank you messages for medical professionals; share yours here. You can also donate to organizations like Direct Relief, which is partnering with government officials and health experts to supply masks, gloves and other protective gear to medical professionals globally.  

Donate money: Several organizations are collecting funds to help the most vulnerable populations get through this crisis. Here are a few: 

  • Meals on Wheels delivers meals to more than 4,300 senior citizens in the Houston area each week. The organization is now operating as it would during any other emergency through an operation dubbed: Operation Impact. Donate funds here.
  • Feeding America helps feed communities and individuals facing hunger across the country. Donate here.
  • No Kid Hungry is committed to ending childhood hunger. With coronavirus causing massive school shutdowns, many low-income kids are losing daily meals they rely on. No Kid Hungry sends emergency grants to food banks and community groups to make sure kids are getting nutritious meals, even while school is closed. Donate here.
  • Second Servings of Houston is a prepared and perishable food rescue organization. Since Friday, March 13, they have recovered 35,000 pounds of food and delivered it directly to charities across the city. Donations will allow them to continue donating surplus food and paying rescue drivers for their extra hours. They are also seeking volunteers to assist with pickup and deliveries and are welcoming surplus food donations from restaurants that may have been forced to shut down. Find more information here. 
  • Christian Community Service Center (CCSC) is on the front lines of feeding people, meeting their basic needs, and helping them with jobs during this crisis. Community members may drop off nonperishable food at CCSC's food pantry at 3230 Mercer St., 77027, Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. or donate funds here or mail a check to P.O. Box 27924, Houston, 77227. Non-perishable items needed include: pasta; hearty soups (with meat or beans); canned tuna; canned chicken; boxed dry cereal; canned vegetables and fruits; toilet paper; bar soap; baby wipes/diapers (sizes 4, 5 and 6).

Write letters to the elderly: Many nursing homes are encouraging visitors to stay away in order to protect the elderly. But you’re still allowed to send mail! Perhaps you know someone in a nursing home who’d appreciate a hand-written note. Even if you don’t, many Facebook groups help you find nursing homes to write to. For example, Forget Me Not includes a list of nursing homes that have signed up to receive mail.

Be responsible: One of the simplest ways that you can help curb the spread of coronavirus is by social distancing. So, the easiest way to help others is simply to stay home if you can. If you must go out, try to maintain a distance of six feet from other individuals. 

For more ideas, The Church of St. John The Divine has compiled a list of ways to help here

Editor’s Note: Please comment below if you know of other ways to help during the coronavirus pandemic.

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