Stuck At Home? Here’s How to Help During a Public Health Crisis By Iris Dimmick

As thousands of San Antonians practice social distancing and work from home to prevent further spread of the coronavirus, many are looking for volunteer and charity opportunities to help those most affected.

While senior citizens with underlying health conditions are the most at risk of dying from COVID-19, low-income families are the most at risk of suffering economically from the secondary impacts of school shutdowns and cuts to work hours. The City of San Antonio, Bexar County, nonprofits, and corporations are ramping up awareness of where some of the community’s greatest needs lie.

Volunteering amid a viral outbreak is tricky: how do you help while maintaining a six-foot buffer with people? Before considering volunteer opportunities, officials encourage residents to consider their own health (make sure you don’t have symptoms) and the health of those around you. Those who live with a senior citizen may want to donate to a cause or connect others to resources rather than volunteer in person. Volunteers should continue to wash their hands, avoid touching their face, and maintain distance from others.

“The first way people can help is to stop freaking out,” said Manny Pelaez (D8), noting the over-buying of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. “The amount of panic that is spread is actually counteracting all the good that we’re trying to do.”

The second, Palaez added, “donations online never hurt anybody.”

And while residents are at home, it’s the perfect time to go through their things to put together a box of items they don’t need and make a trip to Goodwill or Salvation Army, he said.

Pelaez is part of an informal working group on Council including Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) and Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan (D2) tasked by Mayor Ron Nirenberg to make sure Council district offices become (at least digitally) connection hubs for neighbors who want to help neighbors. Council staff can also help connect residents with resources such as emergency child care.

“One of our biggest needs right now is identifying seniors in our communities who need food,” Pelaez said, along with other chores like taking out the trash or walking a dog.

These are things that Gonzales’ office has been doing for years anyway, she said, “but now there’s an even greater need … and workload [for her staff].”

Many low-income families and seniors don’t have access to or familiarity with the internet, Gonzales said, “so it’s a matter of calling to check up on them.”

Several Council members are currently coordinating volunteer opportunities, she said. Some field offices are closed, but City Hall office lines are listed on the City’s website and most Council members can be contacted through Facebook and Twitter.

SACRD.org, initiated by the City’s faith-based liaison and volunteers, has an extensive list and map of assistance providers people can contact for help. SA2020 recently posted this helpful guide for what to do in your neighborhood. The nonprofit also compiled a website, weisgreater.org, to track the work being done across the county toward mitigating the public health crisis.

Here’s an overview of ways you can help – some involve leaving your home (with hand sanitizer), but there are plenty of ways to help from the comfort of your home.

Act and Donate

Donate digitally.
The Big Give, the annual citywide fundraising day that usually takes place in the spring, is postponed until September. In the meantime, at the request of Nirenberg, it established an emergency relief fundraising hub to “assist with the raising of critical funds for nonprofits during this time of exceptional need,” according to its website. Organizations are encouraged to register here.

Box meals for kids and senior citizens, join the mobile pantry.
The San Antonio Food Bank is boxing hundreds of meals for families across San Antonio and delivering them to schools, Pre-K 4 SA centers, and City Parks and Rereation Department community centers.

Meals on Wheels San Antonio is pausing volunteer activities, but donations are encouraged.

Donate blood.
The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center has teamed up with the City of San Antonio to hold special community blood drives at the Alamodome on Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Make an appointment online or by calling 210-731-5590. Each donor will receive various gift cards.

Drop off diapers, sanitary products.
The Texas Diaper Bank needs diapers sizes 3, 5, and 6, wipes, menstrual pads, and incontinence products. You can also have these products delivered via its Amazon wish list.

Help out homeless shelters/resource centers, make hygiene kits.
Haven for Hope, the largest homeless shelter in Bexar County, has paused volunteer activities but is still accepting donations. The City’s Department of Human Services (DHS), South Alamo Regional Alliance for the Homeless, and other homeless service organizations have created a volunteer sign-up form to direct help where it’s needed most. 

DHS is enhancing its homeless outreach team efforts and they need more hygiene kits (including hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, soap, a bottle of water, socks, and snacks) to deliver. Contact Morjoriee.White@sanantonio.gov  or 210.207.8197 for more information on how to help.

Foster or adopt a homeless pet.
Animal Care Services and other shelters such as San Antonio Pets Alive are in need of foster homes and adopters – it’s a furry way to host company while social distancing at home.

Other Resources
Anyone can call 211 to be connected to United Way’s area information center 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The City’s COVID-19 hotline is available at 210.207.5779 or by emailing COVID-19@sanantonio.gov. It’s open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Have a volunteer or donation opportunity? Email iris@rivardreport.com.

See article for updates here: https://therivardreport.com/stuck-at-home-heres-how-to-help-during-a-public-health-crisis/