Stuck sheltering in place and want to be helpful? Here are five things you can do to help local nonprofits that don't involve donating money.
That said, for many local nonprofits, financial donations are critical in helping to meet the needs of community members. If you have the means, consider it.
These steps are recommendations on top of the directives mandated by the shelter-in-place order. Staying healthy, doing everything you can to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and taking care of yourself, your family and friends are also important actions.
1. Register yourself as a volunteer.
The first place to start is by entering your name, skills and volunteer abilities into local mutual aid registries. Fill out the survey for San Mateo County here or one covering the South Bay – roughly Redwood City to San Jose here, which asks if you're willing to do things like prepare meals or walk pets for those in need. You can access additional Santa Clara County opportunities to help here.
Santa Clara County currently has calls out for people to provide housing; supply medical equipment like N95 masks, surgical masks, face shields and gowns; and donate blood, among other requests.
2. Fight loneliness. Write notes or talk to homebound seniors.
As the coronavirus continues to take its most severe toll on the elderly, some seniors are experiencing loneliness as they remain physically separated from friends and family.
To help mitigate some of that loneliness, Peninsula Volunteers, Inc.'s Meals on Wheels program is accepting anonymous, upbeat, inspirational notes that are written by hand (and not in cursive) to deliver to homebound clients on the Peninsula.
The Menlo Park nonprofit asks that people not sign the cards, state a school or company name, use jokes or irony, or refer to religion or politics. People should also not glue on any type of decoration that can come off easily. Only glue sticks should be used as adhesives.
Donations are accepted from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Little House, located at 800 Middle Ave. in Menlo Park.
Bonus: If you are interested in a more long-term commitment to support seniors, consider applying to volunteer with the Institute on Aging's Friendship Line. Volunteers respond to callers from throughout the Bay Area and provide emotional support, information and crisis intervention support. They must undergo training and are asked to commit to 96 hours of service. More information can be found here.
3. Feed the hungry.
A number of local nonprofits are accepting food donations, and several have set it up so that you don't even have to leave your home to get food supplies in the hands of the nonprofits that need them.
Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, which is the primary food bank for San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, is accepting "virtual food drive" fundraisers for teams or individuals to raise funds. Each $1 donation supports two healthy meals, the nonprofit says. You can create your own fundraising team here, or access a registry of existing fundraising groups here. Menlo-Atherton High School had raised $8,635 in food drive funds as of April 13, and Los Altos High School had just launched its own food drive.
For those also looking to clear some pantry space, other organizations are accepting canned and dry goods, including the Ecumenical Hunger Program in East Palo Alto.
"For the first time in EHP's history, we are running critically low on resources," the program announced on its website.
Access a wish list of desired food items here. Of particular need are bottled water and gift cards. The program is only open Tuesdays through Thursdays until further notice.
4. Be a maker.
The Menlo Park-based nonprofit LifeMoves, which serves homeless and housing-insecure individuals and families, is accepting homemade face masks for adults and children over the age of 2.
The nonprofit is asking that masks follow the pattern found here.
Deliveries are accepted Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at LifeMoves' administrative offices at 181 Constitution Drive in Menlo Park or at 546 W. Julian St. in San Jose. More information here.
Peninsula Volunteers, Inc., which runs Meals on Wheels, also needs handmade washable, reusable masks. They want makers to avoid using elastic ties since some reportedly melt in the dryer.
LifeMoves is also accepting no-sew fleece blankets. People can purchase kits online for home delivery or in-person or curbside pickup through Jo-Ann's or other vendors.
The blankets only require a pair of scissors and some knot-tying skills.
5. Donate blood or plasma.
If you have recovered from a confirmed, verified case of COVID-19, the American Red Cross may be able to use plasma in your blood to help current COVID-19 patients. The plasma contains antibodies that can help the body fight off the virus. Candidates to donate plasma must be in good health, at least 17 years old and 110 pounds, and have recovered from a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19. Access more information here.
Stanford Blood Center is also accepting blood donations and need has grown since corporate blood drives have halted as employees have been asked to work from home. Make an appointment here. Donating blood is considered an essential activity and an acceptable reason to leave the house.