How to Help: Spreading Kindness in the Western Suburbs and Beyond

We might be “social distancing,” but if there was ever a time to come together, it’s now. We all have a part to play in helping our neighbors and communities. And besides the practical help we can offer others, I can’t think of anything that will help alleviate the sense of isolation more than supporting one other.

I’ve arranged these ideas on how to help from big-picture to individual. If you have more ideas or are part of a group starting a local effort, please let us know! You can leave a comment here or email us at

Help around the world: Donate to charities on the ground.

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.

Help healthcare providers: Make or donate protective gear.

Healthcare 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.

Help your community: 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.

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Help local businesses: Get creative with support.

The small business community is reeling, whether from closures, reduced staffing, or a slowdown in sales. So check in on our favorite spots around town just like you might check in with a friend. 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.

Help your neighborhood: 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.

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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.

Help your network: Reach out.

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! Plus, if you’re able to offer a babysitting lifeline to a family that needs it, you’ll be a hero forever.

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 “met” on Facebook Live this week, and it was a great way to feel that connection.

Help your family: Be kind.

When my schoolteacher husband came home Friday with the news that we’d be spending a lot more time together, I felt so glad to have him home . . . and also nervous about it. We’ve done the school break thing many times before. While it’s great to get together time, it’s natural to start getting on each others’ nerves. It sounds a lot more likely with nowhere to go, too . . . especially because our house is about 800 square feet — even if you try to hide in the bathroom, someone’s gonna come knocking soon.

So I told him: “I commit to being aggressively pleasant.” Sarcasm is off the table right now. Minor annoyances will be dropped. Requests? Politely conveyed.

That goes for my kids, too. I’m praying for patience and kindness every morning. I’m 100% sure it won’t go perfectly (it already hasn’t), but it’s something to be vigilant about.

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Help yourself: Remember to refresh.

Ever heard the phrase “You can’t pour from an empty cup?” Well, honestly, as a parent I call BS — there have been many days where my cup feels quite empty and I just keep on pouring somehow.

But this is a long game, and we do need to put on our own oxygen masks if we’re going to create a good atmosphere for our children and families.

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.)
  • 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!

About the Author

Rachel Matuch
Rachel is a writer and mom of two boys who lives in Woodridge. She recently moved from Downers Grove and grew up in Naperville, but she and her husband have been discovering new things to do now that they’ve got a toddler and baby in tow. Rachel loves cooking, playing board games, and regularly raiding the Woodridge library. She also volunteers with teens at Four Corners Community Church, which makes her feel like an old geezer.

1 Comment on "How to Help: Spreading Kindness in the Western Suburbs and Beyond"

  1. Vicky Zupancic | March 27, 2020 at 9:59 am | Reply

    This is great!

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