How Can I Help Our Community Right Now?

April 30, 2020

There is a lot of upheaval in the world right now. You are most likely practicing social distancing and staying at home as much as possible.

Since traditional volunteer opportunities have been canceled, we have to get creative about how we help others during this time. The BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Community Relations team pulled together some ideas for how you can help your community right now while practicing safe social distancing.

Help flatten the curve

The best thing you can do for the entire community is to stay at home and limit your contact with others. This helps slow the spread of the disease so our health care workers can care for those who need it. Also make sure you practice good hygiene by washing your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. Cover your mouth when you cough or use tissues when you sneeze. Wear a mask when you are in public places. Scientists now think that as many as 25 percent of people could be carriers of the coronavirus, which means you may not know you have the disease but could infect others. Keeping your distance will help you and the community. 

Check in on others

Call elderly family members to see how they are doing. You can offer to help by dropping off groceries or other essentials. Write letters or send pictures to elderly family or friends in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Many of them haven’t had visitors in weeks. If you have elderly neighbors, consider reaching out to them to offer your help, from a distance.

You can post on the Next Door app or a neighborhood Facebook group to let your community know you are willing to run errands for those in need. Ask for a list of needed supplies, go shopping and leave the goods on their doorstep with a note of encouragement. 

If you live in Columbia, you can also go shopping for food to support The Cooperative Ministry Emergency Pantry. Just purchase items from its shopping list, place the items in a bag or box, and drop off at its clothing bank Monday – Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Make a mask for a friend

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now recommending that everyone wear a mask when going out in public. But you shouldn’t buy a surgical mask — save those for the health care workers. Instead, you can make your own. There are many tutorials online, and some of them don’t require any sewing. Consider making multiple masks and giving them to neighbors or friends. If you own a 3D printer, you can download designs to make plastic masks for local hospital staff.  

Donate blood

Although blood is not needed to treat COVID-19, there is still an ongoing need for blood donations. One out of every 7 people admitted to the hospital requires blood. Visit to make an appointment near you. The Red Cross is now requiring donors to wear a face mask, so please bring your own mask to your appointment. If you don’t have a mask, the Red Cross will provide one. 

Send a donation to a local organization

Many nonprofits have had to cancel important fundraising events, but they haven’t canceled their work to support the community. Consider making a donation through the Midlands Gives website. Or, you can look at the organization’s Amazon Wish List and send items directly. Some local organizations with Amazon Wish Lists are Harvest Hope Food Bank, Ronald McDonald House Charities Columbia and Palmetto Animal Assisted Life Services.

Share words of encouragement 

Many people are decorating their sidewalks with messages of hope and support. Consider drawing a heart on your driveway as a thank-you to health care workers who will be going to area facilities to care for the sick. Leave a teddy bear in your window for children who are out on “bear hunts.” There are many other positive ideas spreading on social media if you are looking for ways to support your community. 

Lexington Medical Center (LMC) is requestinggreeting cards for its patients. The cards should be positive, uplifting and applicable to every patient. You should place the cards in a sealed plastic bag when you drop them off. This will kill all the germs on the card within 24 hours. Just call 803-791-2901 when you arrive, and a Pastoral Care representative will retrieve the cards from you. If you don’t live near LMC, there are many hospitals and senior living facilities you can mail cards to.

Read a story to a child

Record yourself reading a children’s book and upload it to the Happy Hope Foundation’s website. Your video will entertain children who are patients in hospitals around the country. Stories are accepted in English and Spanish.

Support local businesses and workers 

Consider ordering takeout from local restaurants if you can or support small businesses in the area. You can find local farms on the South Carolina Department of Agriculture’s website for produce since a lot of farmers markets are closed. When you order takeout or delivery, make sure you tip your servers well if you can. 

Donate gently used items  

Many organizations are still accepting donated items. Now is the time to clean out your house and drop off gently used items you no longer need. Here are some organizations in South Carolina accepting items: 

  • Goodwill Industries of the Upstate/Midlands is accepting household items and clothing at its donation centers from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily. You can also drop off items for Harvest Hope Food Bank at local Goodwill donation centers. Harvest Hope needs nonperishable foods, baby supplies, hygiene supplies, feminine hygiene products, adult diapers, paper products and cleaning supplies.
  • Salvation Army of the Midlands is accepting donations at its Family Stores every day between noon and 5 p.m., except Wednesdays and Sundays. 
  • Seamstresses in the Midlands are turning sheets into gowns for nurses and doctors, and they are requesting sheets, Velcro and elastic. 

If you don’t live in South Carolina, be sure to check with your local organizations to see if they are accepting donations.

Don’t hoard

Buy only what you need and use what you have in your pantry or closets. Because some people are stocking up, shelves at your local grocery may sometimes be bare even though there is currently no nationwide shortage of food or other products. Overbuying things you do not need means there is less for others who may need those items.

Be kind

When you see a health care worker, grocery store clerk, janitor or other essential personnel say thank you. Be kind and patient with others. This is a hard time for everyone. 

As you try to help your community, remember to take care of yourself as well. You can find ideas to stay healthy while you are at home here.

This article contains health information from independent organizations you may find useful.

This article contains links to third party sites. Those organizations are solely responsible for the contents and privacy policies of their sites.

BlueCross employees deliver meals to senior citizens Hover image

BlueCross employees deliver meals to senior citizens through Senior Resources. 

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