Look for the helpers.
That’s what American icon Fred Rogers of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” suggested children do whenever they heard or saw something scary on the news. Turns out, that advice is pretty fitting for both kids and adults during these uncertain times as the coronavirus pandemic grips the Puget Sound region.
As the Seattle area shuts down to curb the spread of COVID-19, there are plenty of opportunities to look for helpers and, more importantly, become one yourself.
“One of the best practices to help ourselves experience resilience is through being in service to others,” explains Anne Browning, assistant dean for well-being at UW School of Medicine and founding director of the UW Resilience Lab. “At times when we push for social distance, we can still stay connected through sharing our peer support and gratitude for one another.”
Here are a few simple, safe and meaningful ways you can support your neighbors during the coronavirus public health crisis. After all, we’re in this together.
One of the unintended consequences of widespread social distancing efforts is a huge drop in blood donations.
Bloodworks Northwest, a nonprofit that supplies blood to UW Medical Center, Harborview Medical Center and around 90 other area hospitals, says its blood supply hit emergency levels as a result of coronavirus concerns.
It takes 1,000 people donating blood every day to maintain current blood supply levels, around 60% of which is collected at local blood drives. With school campuses closing and more people working from home, many of these blood drives are being canceled.
To help out, schedule an appointment to donate blood at a local donor center. As long as you’re healthy, it’s still a safe activity. Staff members are also following screening precautions, such as performing temperature checks before entry and asking about your recent travel history.
Give to food banks and school districts
If you’ve recently made a trip to the grocery store to stock up, you’ve probably noticed toilet paper, hand sanitizer, canned food and staples like pasta and rice are hot commodities right now.
All that pandemic prep hasn’t just led to bare store shelves — it’s also led to a dip in donations for food banks, many of which rely on grocery stores for items.
Yet another group that’s hard hit by the current crisis? More than 520,000 youth who qualify for subsidized meals from schools across Washington state. With schools closed through at least April 24, 2020, those kids and their families will have limited access to the breakfast and lunch programs they rely on.
You can help by donating food and hygiene products or even volunteering to deliver items to those in need. Contact your local food pantry or school district to ask how you can best contribute.
Support local businesses and organizations
With crowd size limits and restrictions on restaurants, people are practicing their social distancing and staying home. While that’s a crucial step to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, that also means your local eateries, stores and arts organizations are suffering.
Not only are small business owners hurting, so are thousands of hourly workers who are finding themselves unemployed or with drastically reduced wages.
If you have the means, make it a point to patronize these locally owned businesses and support their workers. That can mean ordering take-out or delivery from an area restaurant, buying a gift card to use in the future, shopping online from your favorite boutique or donating to a relief fund for those who are out of work.
Check in with your neighbors
While it’s natural to ask how your family and friends are doing, it’s equally important to check on your neighbors, especially those who are older or at increased risk from COVID-19 and may be in self-isolation as a precaution.
“Please check in with your neighbors, especially folks who are high risk or elderly, to make sure they have the supplies they need and are connecting with others, even if virtually,” Browning says.
If you know one of your neighbors lives by themselves and might need a little extra support, offer to go on grocery runs for them, share books they might find interesting or suggest a daily phone check-in to keep their spirits up. Even the simple act of asking how someone is doing can brighten their day.
Offer help to healthcare workers and essential employees
Although much of the focus has been on how to protect the most vulnerable, don’t forget that healthcare workers — the doctors, nurses, lab workers, support staff and countless others who are on the frontlines — need support too.
Hospitals are overwhelmed, and many healthcare workers are pulling extra shifts under stressful conditions.
The same goes for first responders, grocery store workers, child care providers, delivery drivers and other essential employees who are all putting in additional time and energy to keep services operating during the crisis.
If you know someone in this group, give them your support. Cook them dinner and drop it off at their home, do their grocery shopping, volunteer to walk their dog or offer to watch their kids so they don’t have to worry about child care.
“I have been inspired by seeing our community support for our healthcare teams, and that can ripple out to and inspire others who are right around us,” Browning notes.
So, in the spirit of Fred Rogers, go out and be a helper.