Coronavirus Community Service for Kids and Families

It can be hard to look outward when we’re shuttered inside, concerned about the health and safety of our families during the COVID-19 epidemic. But one way to help children cope with these scary times is to help others. Research shows that giving and doing for others helps our mental and even physical well-being, and provides a way to create social connections even when we’re so focused on social distancing.
Here are some ways your family can help:
Check on a senior or other vulnerable person. Whether it’s a neighbor or faraway grandparent, check in regularly by phone, text or video chat. For someone close by, consider adding their groceries or prescriptions to your store run or online order. For someone farther away, add a snail mail card or drawing to your virtual visits to brighten their day.
If you don’t know a senior but still want to help, mutual aid organizations are cropping up in local communities linking healthy, able-bodied people with homebound seniors and others, and some Meals on Wheels chapters are seeking new volunteers. You can find your local chapter here
Make a rainbow. Children around the world are creating rainbow art, hanging it in their windows or drawing it on the sidewalk, to spread cheer and solidarity as people spot it on neighborhood walks or “rainbow scavenger hunts.” One of the originators, the Facebook group Rainbows Over Nassau and Suffolk Counties and Beyond, now has more than 37,000 members.
Make a donation. Many organizations that help the needy have necessarily shifted away from using in-person volunteers, but they may need more help than ever. If your family is unaffected financially by this crisis, consider making a monetary donation or purchasing goods on an organization’s wish list. Talk about your good deed with your children, involve them in the decision-making or, for kids who have their own money from gifts or chores, invite them to contribute themselves. Buying a gift card from a local restaurant or small business to use later is a win-win that may help keep community businesses afloat during this time.
Polly Liu of Los Altos has organized Free Laundry Friends to pay for laundry servivces in underserved communities affected by COVID-19. So far, the effort has raised more than $20,000 and has paid for laundry for people including the custodial staff at El Camino Hospital. “We believe in small treats and kindness. We also believe clean clothes is a basic need, a necessity for work and a source of personal pride,” she writes on the effort’s Go Fund Me page.   
The Butterfly Effect, an East Bay organization that started with local children making butterfly art to draw attention to detained migrant children, offers lots more coronavirus-related service ideas on its website.
Among them are:
• Add community service time into your children’s daily schedule.
• Create care packages with personal care items for people who are experiencing homelessness. Add a card with a nice picture or note, and drop them off at a local shelter or a hospital/clinic. (You can email them at [email protected] for help finding a place.)
• Make cards for your local Meals on Wheels program that they can add to the meals they are delivering to brighten a homebound person’s day. Cards can be pictures with inspiring messages, like “I’m thinking of you” or “I hope you have a nice day!”
• Create thank you cards for healthcare providers letting them know you appreciate them. Parents can help find a doctor, nurse or other healthcare worker who can deliver the cards to healthcare workers.
Many hospitals are also seeking donations of masks, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer and other personal protection equipment. If you have any to spare, check with your local hospital or healthcare provider. 
Doing Good Together, a national nonprofit with a Bay Area presence that helps connect families with community service activities, is curating wish lists from nonprofits, both local and beyond, for donations of food, money, cards and more. Silicon Valley organizations can be found here. East Bay organizations are here
Doing Good Together also has an inexpensive downloadable Kindness Kit packed with at-home activities. Among them are Color-A-Smile templates to color and send to someone in need; a mailing list with addresses to send handmade cards to hospitalized children, overseas troops, seniors and others; sidewalk chalk message ideas; a Help the Hungry calendar to raise funds for a local hunger relief organization; “big-hearted conversation starters” and more.
How is your family finding ways to help? Email [email protected] and we’ll share your ideas.

Janine DeFao is an associate editor at Bay Area Parent.


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