As the COVID-19 pandemic intensifies, families are stepping up in ways we haven’t seen since the World War II home front efforts. We all have a part to play in helping our neighbors and communities. And besides the practical help we can offer others, the feeling of doing something, no matter how small, is a balm for our spirits.
If you are part of an organization coordinating aid in our area, we’d love to help you get the word out. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The most important way to help: If you can, stay home.
Half the world is currently under a stay-at-home order. Why? Because it’s the most effective way to stop and slow the spread of COVID-19.
I know it’s hard. It’s so, so hard. It’s easy to think that letting the kids have a playdate (or giving a quick hug to a neighbor, or giving into the whining of rightfully desperate teens) isn’t a big deal. But let’s see our ‘stay at home’ efforts for what they are: life-saving.
If you’re an essential worker, you can’t stay home — and the rest of us need to show our appreciation for the risk you’ve been forced to take by staying in for you.
So what does this look like? Right now, the guidance is to:
- Stay home unless you are an essential worker or assisting a loved one.
- Stay out of public playgrounds and parks. If you show up to an outdoor space and it looks crowded, go home.
- It’s fine to play outside and take walks, but maintain at least 6 feet of space between you and non-family members. You may feel ridiculous, especially if the other person isn’t taking it seriously. Too bad.
- Grocery shop only once a week (or less.) Wear a homemade cloth mask when you go. If you are sick or showing any symptoms like coughing or fever, stay home. Reach out to a loved one to shop for you.
- Practice good hygiene. Wash hands frequently. Clean and then disinfect surfaces you touch frequently, like doorknobs and light switches.
- If you receive deliveries, do it safely. That means no contact. If you’re having food delivered, ask ahead of time about putting the tip on your card. Once you’ve unpacked the delivery, wash your hands and the area where packaging sat.
Make or donate protective gear for essential workers
Healthcare professionals and other essential workers are facing dire shortages of PPE, or personal protective equipment.
If you’ve got sewing, 3D printing, or other skills, you can find out how to make and donate equipment. They’ve provided instructions and tips to help you get started!
If you have stocks of things like face masks, hand sanitizer, and gloves, you can use this searchable map to see needs near you and how to donate.
Donate for hunger relief.
Combine so many people out of work (including many who already live paycheck-to-paycheck) with low supplies at grocery stores and kids out of school . . . and food banks are bracing themselves.
Most banks do allow you drop off your non-perishables, but monetary donations are usually the most helpful — plus, you can donate online.
- Feeding America supports local food banks across the country. They’re sharing specific information on needs arising from the coronavirus outbreak.
- Greater Chicago Food Depository partners with food banks throughout our community and can direct aid where it’s most needed.
- Meals on Wheels regularly delivers meals to senior citizens who need it through the DuPage Senior Citizens Council, Kane Senior Council, Meals on Wheels Chicago, Catholic Charities, and the Meals on Wheels Foundation of Northern Illinois.
- Loaves & Fishes Virtual Food Drive in Naperville allows you to “shop” for different items, which can be a great way to help kids understand giving.
- West Suburban Community Pantry in Woodridge has switched to offering pre-packed boxes, plus weekly produce, milk, eggs, etc. to help deal with the crisis.
- There are many smaller, local food pantries through churches and other organizations; search to see what’s near you.
Sign up to donate blood.
Because big blood drives can’t happen right now, donors need to make an appointment to go donate at a center. As the COVID-19 crisis stretches on, shortages will continue — so book your donation well in advance. Versiti (formerly Heartland Blood Centers) and Vitalant (formerly LifeSource) are the two major blood donation centers in our area.
Donate to charities doing good throughout the world.
Even as we struggle with the effects here in the U.S., places around the world are also battling COVID-19. Charity Navigator has a dedicated page to help you make an informed choice about how to help.
Get creative to support local businesses.
The small business community is reeling. Check in on our favorite spots. Many are keeping social media or their websites updated with information.
A few ideas:
- Pick things up to go. It’s not just restaurants offering this option! Nicole has been posting tons of amazing options in our Kidlist Community Group, from a Bloomingdale bakery offering cookie decorating kits to a Wheaton ceramics studio offering DIY pottery painting kits. Many spots will let you pay ahead and deliver the goods to your car, minimizing risk for yourself and for workers. Call ahead and ask.
- Go digital. Many local restaurants and shops offer e-gift cards. Buy now as a promise to go later, or check off your holiday shopping list early this year.
- Follow on social media. Leave a positive review for your favorite place so they know they’re supported! Social media is a great way for businesses to stay in touch and let you know your options. Many local kid-friendly businesses are offering free online videos and other resources right now, too — so it’s a win-win.
Check in with your neighbors.
If you already have a neighborhood email list or social media group, check in to see if there are already efforts underway. Call or text the people near you to see how they’re doing and if they need anything.
Don’t know your neighbors? Write a note with your name, number, and email to leave in their mailbox. (Wash your hands first, of course.) That way, if there’s a need, everyone will know how to get in touch.
Reach out to your networks.
Check in with your friends, kids’ classes, and other groups to see how everyone’s doing and stay connected. That goes double for people who are elderly or at risk!
Maintaining those connections is crucial, even if book club or knitting group is cancelled. You may even want to move your cancelled meetings to Google Hangouts or another virtual meeting to get some face time in; our church “meets” on Facebook Live, and it’s a great way to feel that connection.
Help spread joy.
Take part in our massive Chicagoland Easter egg hunt by coloring an egg for your window. Break out the holiday lights again. Leave encouraging messages in chalk on your sidewalk. Wave and shout “Hi!” when you see a neighbor across the street. The little kindnesses we’ve seen over the past few weeks have been a bright light in a dark time.
Be kind at home.
When we first published this article, I told you all I had committed to being aggressively pleasant while stuck inside with my husband and kids.
Of course, that’s not sustainable for weeks on end. And so we’ve entered into a new cycle that includes a lot of grace and forgiveness for one another. We’ve said “I’m sorry” a lot. Tempers have been lost (by me). Tears have been shed (also me). Toys have been thrown (that’s on the kiddos).
We’re not going to be perfect. But let’s try to say how we’re feeling, be honest about what we need, and admit when we mess up. It goes a long way.
Unfortunately, our communities are seeing a surge in domestic violence. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you can still get help. The Illinois 24-hour domestic violence hotline is always open at 1-877-TO END DV or 1-877-863-6338. See more information.
Remember to refresh.
First, bookmark this link: 5 Ways to Cope When You’re Losing It. Just drag it right up into your bookmark bar. We’re all going to need it.
Everyone reacts differently to a crisis, and everyone needs different things. Here are a few ideas; see what appeals to you, then write them down on a Post-It and stick it to the fridge so it’s there when you need it:
- Get off social media and turn off the news if it’s making you feel frazzled. It will be there later.
- Call a friend. (I’ve been texting first because as a millennial, I always think someone has died when I get a phone call.) After you hear how they’re holding up, ask to talk about anything besides the coronavirus.
- Take a walk. Bonus points if it’s in nature, but even just around the block will clear your head and help you feel less trapped.
- Request some “me time.” Even within our homes, we can let everyone know we need a minute.
- Request some “us time.” Sometimes, my husband and I are both scrolling on our phones, and I’ll ask if we can put them down, hold hands, and talk for two minutes. (Yes, I am an extrovert, PLEASE SEND HELP.)
- Journal it out. Get those feelings down on paper.
- Sing. Turn on the music and belt along. (In Italy, people are singing from their balconies while stuck at home.)
As parents and caregivers, we always tend to skip caring for ourselves, but it really is important.
We hope these ideas inspire you to spread kindness on every level. Again, please share your ideas! Where do you see need in your community? How are people already helping? Let us know!