How you can help during the coronavirus outbreak

Several nonprofit organizations could use your time and money to make sure vulnerable populations are cared for during the pandemic.
Volunteer Danielle Pingue packs boxes as part of the Grocery Plus senior program at the Capital Area Food Bank in the District. (Craig Hudson for The Washington Post)
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The coronavirus pandemic has reached every U.S. state, leading to more than 100,000 deaths across the country. While communities have begun to reopen, the outbreak has continued to strain resources, shuttering businesses and leaving millions without jobs. Here are ways to help in your community.

How to help nonprofits

Local and national nonprofits are struggling to meet clients’ needs as the coronavirus sickens thousands of people and forces layoffs and school closures. The organizations face increased demand while being compelled to cancel crucial fundraising events, according to Rick Cohen, chief communications officer of the National Council of Nonprofits. Here are some nonprofits that would welcome donations. He also suggests you check in with smaller nonprofits you may have supported in the past, as nearly every charity is likely experiencing challenges.

American Red Cross: Due to the cancellation of blood drives, the American Red Cross faces a severe blood shortage. Healthy individuals are needed to donate now to maintain a sufficient supply. Make an appointment here or call 1-800-RED-CROSS to find a local donation site.

America’s Blood Centers: Brings together community-based and independent blood centers across the country. You can use its website to find and schedule an appointment to make a blood donation in your area.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America: Raises funds to provide groceries to kids participating in its more than 2,500 clubs, plus virtual academic support such as digital activities and learning opportunities. You can donate here.

CDC Foundation: Supports the critical health protection work of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is raising emergency response funds to enable the CDC to respond to covid-19. You can donate here.

Center for Disaster Philanthropy Covid-19 Response Fund: Supports nonprofit organizations working in areas identified as having high numbers of affected individuals and those working with the most vulnerable populations. Areas of emphasis include helping health-care workers with purchases of masks, gowns, gloves and other protective equipment; supporting quarantined and vulnerable individuals; and hygiene promotion campaigns to limit the spread of the virus. You can donate here.

CERF+: Focuses on safeguarding visual artists’ livelihoods. The covid-19 response fund is a safety net for artists who contract the virus and are suffering severe health impacts. You can donate here.

Direct Relief: Works in the United States and internationally to equip doctors and nurses with lifesaving medical resources. The organization is delivering protective masks, exam gloves and isolation gowns to health-care organizations in areas with confirmed covid-19 cases. You can donate here.

Feeding America: With a nationwide network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries, donations to its covid-19 response fund will help food banks across the country support the most vulnerable communities affected by the pandemic. You can donate here or find your local food bank here.

Nurse Lorraine McPherson works at a blood mobile outside Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on March 19 in Los Angeles. The American Red Cross declared a severe blood shortage as hundreds of community blood drives have been canceled due to the covid-19 pandemic. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Feed the Children: Works with thousands of partner agencies across the country, including food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens and churches. You can make a cash donation here. If you want to donate food or hygiene items call 1-800-627-4556.

First Book: Donations will help deliver 7 million books to children in need who don’t have Internet access or home libraries to keep learning. You can donate here.

Lawyers for Good Government Foundation: Helps thousands of asylum seekers being held in refugee camps at the border and in U.S. detention centers. Donations help volunteer lawyers with travel to provide pro bono services to asylum seekers and families unable to practice social distancing or obtain access to proper sanitation. It has also built a nationwide coalition of law firms and nonprofit organizations to help small businesses dealing with legal issues or seeking grants and loans. You can donate here.

Meals on Wheels: Delivers nutritious meals to the country’s most vulnerable seniors. Donations will replenish food supplies, subsidize additional transportation and personnel, and enable tech-based efforts to check in on isolated elderly recipients. You can contact your local provider or donate to the national group here.

National Association for the Exchange of Industrial Resources: Collects excess inventory from businesses and redistributes those goods to schools, churches and nonprofit organizations across the country. Businesses can cull inventory, clean out a warehouse, and donate unwanted goods, overstocks, obsolete items, factory seconds and more. Go here for a donation form or call 1-800-562-0955.

No Kid Hungry: Deploys funds to ensure access to free meals continues for children in need, especially with schools closed. It is providing $5 million in emergency grants immediately — with more to come — to help schools and community groups feed kids during the outbreak and making sure families know how to find meals while schools are closed. You can donate here.

Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation: Directs money to organizations leading on-the-ground efforts in the restaurant community and provides zero-interest loans to businesses to maintain payroll during closure or reopen once the crisis has passed. It has established a relief fund for individual restaurant workers facing economic hardships or health crises as a direct result of covid-19. You can donate here.

Ronald McDonald House Charities: Provides meals, housing and support for families who have children with serious illnesses and must be away from home for long periods. The organization is working on repurposing some of its spaces for health-care workers on the front lines of the crisis. Search for in-kind donations being accepted by your local chapter. You can donate money here.

Salvation Army: Ensures people have access to food, shelter and child care through its nationwide network. Outreach includes drive-through food pickups, community-based food delivery through canteens and meals at Salvation Army facilities. It also provides snacks and hydration to first responders. You can donate here.

Team Rubicon: Mobilizes military veterans to help people respond to and recover from disasters. During the covid-19 crisis, the organization has helped local, state and federal partners deliver food, water and shelter; run testing sites; staff call centers; and transport cruise ship passengers who completed their mandatory quarantine at home. You can donate here.

United Way Worldwide: Supports communities struggling in the wake of the virus by supporting local United Way chapters and the 211 network, a free emergency support service helping people in crisis. Funds distributed to local United Way chapters help with everything from connecting families to food pantries to aiding those experiencing financial hardships due to lost wages. You can donate here.

How to support restaurants, cafes and bars

Many eateries have been forced to reduce or close operations due to the outbreak. Even as cities and states reopen, some restaurants are still struggling to get back on their feet. If you want to support your local restaurant, consider ordering takeout or purchasing a gift card or merchandise.

“Gift cards are like interest-free loans,” San Antonio restaurant owner Steve McHugh told The Washington Post. Having some income from the gift cards could help a restaurant get back up and running again, says Edouardo Jordan, a James Beard award-winning chef.

You also may consider supporting servers and other workers who have been laid off by donating to a fund or nonprofit, such as the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, mentioned above. Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a nonprofit organization serving restaurant workers, recently launched a campaign to raise $500,000 for a disaster relief fund. You can also look for workers relief funds that may have been set up in your area.

If your restaurant isn’t quite meeting your standards for takeout, remember that these are extremely challenging times for the food industry and many chefs are struggling to adapt. Post dining critic Tom Sietsema recommends patience and understanding with restaurant takeout orders.

How to help seniors who are at risk

Older people are among the most vulnerable to complications from the coronavirus. If you know someone who is elderly and at home, consider checking in and asking if you can help shop and deliver groceries on their behalf.

Experts also recommend helping older family members stay connected to their doctors. Because of the pandemic, many people have canceled medical appointments or are skipping their regular check-ins. You can help by making sure older family members know how to set up telehealth appointments with their providers.

If you have a loved one who lives in a nursing home or assisted-living facility, respect rules the facility may have in place, including barring visitors. Deborah Dunn, president of the Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association, says a lockdown is standard protocol for many facilities during flu season and can help shield residents from potential exposure.

Westminster Canterbury Richmond retirement home in Virginia announced a patient was being treated at a hospital for the coronavirus after returning from Florida. (Steve Helber/AP)

How to help ‘flatten the curve’

One of the most important things you can do to help is protect yourself and others. Prevent the spread of the illness by practicing the CDC’s recommended guidance: Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in a public area or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Don’t forget to moisturize.

Practice social distancing, stay home as much as possible and avoid close contact with others.

Health officials recommend wearing a mask or face covering outside of the home, especially in places where social distancing may be difficult, such as in grocery stores and areas with high rates of community transition. (Here’s a guide on how to sew your own fabric mask.)

Many cities and states have now reopened despite warnings from public health experts. If you are going outside and attending gatherings, the CDC strongly recommends wearing a mask or face covering and social distancing where possible by limiting attendance or creating physical space.

Yes, social distancing is difficult — and against our very nature — but it can be crucial to “flattening the curve” and slowing transmission of the virus. A recent study found that shutdown orders were largely effective, preventing 60 million coronavirus infections in the U.S. as well as 285 million infections in China. Another study from Imperial College London found shutdowns helped save 3.1 million lives in Europe. But even if the number of cases slows, most people have yet to be exposed to the virus and could still fall ill.

“This is just the beginning of the epidemic: We’re very far from herd immunity,” Samir Bhatt, one of the senior authors of the Imperial College London study, told The Post. “The risk of a second wave happening if all interventions and precautions are abandoned is very real.”

Now that testing is more widely available, consider getting tested to prevent spreading the virus to others. The CDC has guidance on who should take a test, but local jurisdictions may also have recommendations. Check the websites of local or state public health departments for testing locations. The CDC maintains a list of these websites here. For testing information in the Washington region, find out more here.

The CDC recommends those experiencing covid-19 symptoms to contact their health care provider first.

Food service worker Thu Thuy instructs a child to wash hands before picking out food at Bailey's Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences as Fairfax County Public Schools increases food distribution sites and provides meals to students in need. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

How to help at stores

Public health officials have stated this over and over: Please do not buy an N95 respirator or surgical mask unless you absolutely need it. Widespread panic-buying can deplete the supply of protective equipment needed for health-care workers. Because of mask shortages, groups have created websites with crowdsourced suggestions on how to donate unused protective equipment to hospitals or medical centers.

Similarly, be mindful about how many groceries you buy. If you can afford to, buy enough for at least two to three weeks but don’t take everything off the shelves. If you are older, have chronic health conditions or otherwise at higher risk for complications from the virus, consider having someone else shop for you or getting groceries delivered.

“Because everybody is panicking, there are a lot of people in the grocery stores, so if you belong in that group of people who are 65 or older, or immune compromised, then it is best to get someone else to shop for you, if you can,” said Bettina Fries, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook University in New York.

Some grocery stores have offered limited hours for those who are older.

A dog named Cori gets walked through the Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley, Minn., on his way go home with his new family. Hundreds of pets have new homes before shelters pause adoptions due to the coronavirus. (Evan Frost/Minnesota Public Radio via AP)

How to help pets and shelters

Local animal shelters and rescue groups across the country are reducing services and canceling fundraisers to protect staff but still need to care for their animals. The Humane Society of the United States suggests helping by adopting or fostering a pet, which will reduce the strain on shelters. The Best Friends Animal Society has a site where you can search for partner organizations near you.

Some shelters also offer pet support services for low-wage families who may not be able to afford caring for their pet. Check with your local shelter to see if there are ways you can donate or help.

The Humane Rescue Alliance suggests checking in with people in your community, especially seniors or those with underlying health issues, and offering to walk their dogs or help with pet food.

George Washington University School of Medicine students Katie Coerdt, Paige Dekker and Caitlin Merely wear disposable gloves to sort canned food at the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington on Thursday. Their medical rounds were canceled due to the outbreak, freeing up time to volunteer. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

How to help in the D.C. region

The coronavirus will continue impacting D.C.'s already vulnerable populations, and demand for nonprofit services will keep growing with layoffs and unemployment. Several nonprofits have ramped up efforts to help.

So Others Might Eat: Provides meals for the homeless and has been distributing hand wipes and provided sanitizing stations throughout the community. The group is accepting donations for clients and residents who might become ill. A list of needed medicine, food and household items is available here. Donations can be dropped off at 71 O Street NW from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends. Monetary donations are accepted online.

D.C. Central Kitchen: Offering thousands of breakfasts and lunches to D.C. youth every week at various locations throughout the city. Central Kitchen has also ramped up meal deliveries to shelters and nonprofits, working with communities disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus. D.C. Central Kitchen accepts donations online.

N Street Village: Helps women overcome homelessness and addiction and offers showers, meals and places for clients to do laundry. Monetary donations are accepted here.

D.C. Safe: With people out of work and confined at home, an increase in domestic abuse is possible. This nonprofit offers 24/7 crisis intervention in the District and provides shelter space. Several options for donations are here.

The Children’s Inn at NIH: Provides free housing and support for children and adults participating in clinical research studies at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. The Children’s Inn is asking for donations to continue providing breakfast, lunch and dinner to its residents. It is also asking for blood donations to the NIH Blood Bank and contributions of items on its wish list. You can make a donation to its Feeding Families Fund or provide nonperishable food supplies here.

Martha’s Table: The nonprofit has been delivering digital educational content to families along with access to diapers, formula, wipes and grocery gift cards. Martha’s Table is also partnering with local schools and the Capital Area Food Bank to provide students groceries at designated sites. Volunteers, who will be asked to follow a coronavirus health policy, can prepare food and bag groceries. Donation and volunteer information is here.

Catholic Charities D.C.: Provides legal aid, food and other services to those in need. Catholic Charities is seeking donations of shelf-stable foods in addition to supplies for cleaning and personal hygiene. Information for in-kind and monetary donations is available here.

Miriam’s Kitchen: Provides access to housing, meals and social services for the homeless. Miriam’s Kitchen served more than 75,000 meals made from scratch last year and is continuing to serve people through the coronavirus pandemic. Donations can be made here.

Bread for the City: Provides medical care, social services, food, clothing and legal help to low-income families in the District. The nonprofit is stocking up on food and medical supplies to help people suffering income losses and unemployment. Donates are accepted here.

We Are Family Senior Outreach Network: Connects with seniors to provide services, companionship and help with grocery deliveries. The group is working to bring necessities and food to low-income, older adults in the District who need to stay home during the crisis. Information on how to get involved is available here.

Central Union Mission: Provides emergency shelter, workforce development, food, clothing and other services to low-income and homeless individuals in the District. The nonprofit, which has been operating for 135 years in the city, continues to serve the homeless with shelter and food through the covid-19 crisis. Information on how to donate is here.

Manna Food Center: One of the largest food banks serving Montgomery County, Md. The organization has been working with Montgomery County Public Schools to provide meals for children 18 and younger. It is also providing weekend food bags at multiple sites. Manna lists several ways to help here.

New Hope Housing: One of the largest and oldest providers of shelter beds in Northern Virginia. The organization is accepting donations of clothes, cleaning products, food and items for entertainment in addition to monetary donations. Information on how to give is here.

Capital Area Food Bank: The food bank distributes much of its food through a network of nonprofit organizations it partners with in the Washington region. The food bank also directly distributes food to seniors and offers pop-up pantries in certain locations. Options for contributing are listed here.

Do you have a suggestion for something else to include in this guide? Share your ideas in this form.

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