Q: I am working from home now and I want to help my community. How can I find out what opportunities are available at this time?

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We reached out to HandsOn Northwest North Carolina whose mission is to mobilize the people and organizations that inspire community change in Forsyth, Davidson, Davie, Stokes, Surry and Yadkin counties. Julia Ough, AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America working with HandsOn Northwest provided this response.

Answer: It’s always a great thing when people reach out to find ways to serve our community during uncertain times. It’s especially gratifying to be proactive in supporting our neighbors during this unprecedented crisis. When it comes to volunteering, we know that help to support the most vulnerable in our community is needed now perhaps more than ever. Many nonprofits that rely on volunteers are struggling to provide essential services in a way that will protect their clients, volunteers and staff. COVID-19 has shown us how interdependent we all are and the necessity of social services to meet the basic needs of our community. To support these efforts, we at HandsOn Northwest North Carolina have created new guidelines for thinking about how to volunteer safely during the pandemic, while also compiling the ongoing and emerging volunteer needs of our nonprofit partners.

There are a number of organizations in need of volunteers and donations at this time.

Organizations currently looking for volunteers:

  • American Red Cross for blood donations
  • The Shalom Project which needs assistance with food pickups and organization of the food pantry
  • The Virtual Tutoring Program is a Wake Forest University matches WFU undergraduate and graduate students as tutors with Winston-Salem/Forsyth County (WSFCS) K-12 students during school closures

A sample of organizations seeking material donations are:

  • The Bethesda Center for the Homeless
  • The Community Health Alliance — Mobile Health Clinic
  • The COVID-19 Response Fund for Forsyth County
  • H.O.P.E. of Winston-Salem
  • City with Dwellings
  • Samaritan Ministries
  • Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC
  • Senior Services
  • Project Mask Winston-Salem

To learn about the ever-changing opportunities and resources available to in-person and virtual volunteers, please visit our website at volunteer.handsonnwnc.org/covid-19/.

There are a number of ways you can help while remaining in compliance with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Local nonprofits and social services organizations are extremely busy responding to the pandemic, including by engaging volunteers in new and different ways and raising money to meet immediate needs. Organizations have a responsibility to ensure that they are not spreading the disease, so they are enacting new protocols for preparing each volunteer to keep themselves and the people they interact with safe. These new procedures can be time-consuming, so before you reach out to any nonprofit that is new to you, please make sure that you meet their criteria for volunteers. Following these guidelines is an essential way to support our community’s health.

If you cannot volunteer, you can still contribute to relief efforts by donating to community response funds such as the one administered by the Winston-Salem Foundation, in partnership with other community organizations. You can also donate money directly to your favorite nonprofits, all of which are dealing with the economic effects of the COVID-19 crisis.

If you do volunteer, there are a number of things to consider in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Please follow the standard precautions set forth by the Centers for Disease Control. These new guidelines for volunteering are based on the need to support social distancing, to slow down the transmission of COVID-19, and to help ensure that hospitals and health workers won’t be overwhelmed.

At the same time, the guidelines recognize that we don’t need to distance ourselves from the needs of our community during this pandemic. Thank you again for your initiative in wanting to serve our community. None of us are alone during this pandemic; we have a responsibility to minimize this public health risk while continuing to care for one another.

Note from Senior Services: The list of nonprofit organizations provided above by HandsOn Northwest North Carolina may not constitute a complete list of organizations who are currently seeking assistance as they navigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Feel free to reach out to your favorite charity even if it is not listed above to see about opportunities to get involved and lend support.

AgeWise is a weekly column compiled by staff of Senior Services Inc., a nonprofit organization in Winston-Salem. If you have a question, email agewise@seniorservicesinc.org or mail to Senior Services, 2895 Shorefair Drive, Winston-Salem, NC 27105.

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