Ways to volunteer from home and how to help food banks during coronavirus

"Points of Light" offers ways to virtually volunteer during coronavirus.

March 24, 2020, 11:04 PM

With the novel coronavirus keeping many at home due to self isolation, many across the country have felt many emotions over the past few days.

And while worrying over the constant change from the pandemic, many are also worrying about others, but feel a sense of hopelessness in how they can help.

But Points of Light, the world's largest organization dedicated to volunteer service, has launched a new way for people to help others in volunteer work all from the comfort of their own homes.

With many nonprofits struggling to meet the demand for their services due to the lack of volunteers, "Points of Light" gives people the chance to virtually extend a hand to those in need and launched a new online clearinghouse on their website for volunteering opportunities in many places across the country which you can search by location.

Volunteer opportunities include "Self-Help," which connects isolated seniors through shared interests like music and art and the "Crisis Text Line," which offers text-based counseling to help with coronavirus-related stress.

Here are a few more examples that many can choose from at home:

Global Service Institute at Long Island University
Global Service Institute at Long Island University is a new, nationwide initiative which offers opportunities for students and the public to engage in volunteerism and be active leaders in their communities.

"The mission of the Global Service Institute is to really create generations of greater good," said broadcaster Rita Cosby, who serves as the chair of the organization backed by a star-studded honorary advisory board. "Many nonprofits are absolutely devastated economically and desperately need volunteers who need help and deserve our help."

The institute has created a global service app that helps connect young volunteers with nonprofits. Once you open the app, you can search by organization or see what's needed in your area. Each service event is listed with a description of the work you'll be doing along with details and a direct link to sign up.

Crisis Text Line
Crisis Text Line is a free 24/7 national crisis-intervention and counseling service conducted exclusively through SMS text. Volunteers use the nonprofit's web-based platform to provide emotional support to texters who are dealing with a wide range of issues– bullying, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and more. Prospective volunteers go through screening and a lengthy self-paced training. Once completed, volunteers sign-up to take one four-hour shift each week for a year.

Book Share offers thousands of books to people with reading disabilities. As an online volunteer you can either scan books to be added to the collection or edit books that have been scanned.

Translators Without Borders
Translators Without Borders recruits volunteers who want to translate texts into different languages for NGOs and nonprofits.

Be My Eyes
Be My Eyes is a free mobile app with one main goal: to make the world more accessible for blind and low-vision people. The app connects blind and low-vision individuals with sighted volunteers from all over the world through a live video call.

Catchafire uses their website to match professionals with nonprofits based on their skills, cause interest and time availability. You'll find tons of skills-based volunteering opportunities, many of which can be completed virtually.

Smithsonian Digital Volunteer program
The Smithsonian Digital Volunteer program engages the public in making its collections more accessible. Digital volunteers transcribe historic documents and collection records to facilitate research and preserve these valuable assets for future generations.

Amnesty Decoders
Amnesty Decoders is an innovative platform for volunteers around the world to use their computers or phones to help our researchers sift through pictures, information and documents. Join a global network of digital volunteers helping us research and expose human rights violations.

Career Village
Career Village is an online platform where students ask career questions that are answered by people working, or that have worked, in that field. All you need is a LinkedIn account to start helping students become better informed about the career decisions they are facing.

Helping get food to those in need

With the number of people becoming unemployed skyrocketing in the midst of this crisis, food banks are in need of volunteers.

At several food banks across the country, many are adopting extra safety measures for volunteers to prepare boxes of food for those in need.

"We have a group of 60 volunteers set up safely 6-feet apart with gloves on; they've washed their hands," said Kate Maehr, CEO of Greater Chicago Food Depository. "Packing emergency boxes of food -- available to go out to food pantries, and soup kitchens and shelters all across the community is important and we make sure our food insecure neighbors have food during this crisis."

Here are some ways to help food banks from home, too:

1. Foodbank locator on Feeding America's website has information about which food banks serve the communities you care about.

2. Feeding America also has a COVID-19 relief fund set up for many to donate. Each penny that is collected through the end of their fiscal year will go directly to communities that are impacted.

Michelle Obama's volunteering ideas

Looking for more ways to help out? Former first lady Michelle Obama also suggested a few ways to lend a helping hand on her Instagram page.

From making a donation to your local food bank to picking up groceries for your most at-risk and older neighbors, Obama shares the many ways you can help during the coronavirus outbreak.

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