The Effect of COVID-19 on Volunteerism | SHARE Charlotte

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The Effect of COVID-19 on Volunteerism

April 15, 2020    in

Written by Ken Garfield 

In the midst of COVID-19, volunteers continue giving their heart, soul and financial support to nonprofits in and around Charlotte. Just not their hands. 

Organizations that consider volunteers their lifeblood are urging them to shelter in place. The few volunteers who are working are taking every health precaution possible (gloves, distancing, sanitizing, masks when available). When the pandemic is behind us, nonprofit leaders agree that volunteers will be needed more than ever. SHARE Charlotte’s fourth annual Do Good Week April 19-25 (the local celebration of National Volunteer Week) hopes to reenergize those who serve their neighbors and encourage them to adapt their usual methods of giving back and to begin volunteering remotely. But until it’s safe for volunteers to get hands-on again, nonprofits are doing the best they can with what they have.

Here are three illustrations:

Baby Bundles provides a bag full of necessities to new moms in need. In 2019, nearly 900 volunteers made it happen by sorting donations, building bundles and more. With that work halted, Executive Director Paula Foust says Baby Bundles has found other ways to engage volunteers: Make no-sew baby blankets. You can come and get fabric and instructions or Baby Bundles will deliver it to your doorstep. Cleaning out closets as you shelter in place? Gather children’s books and baby clothing (birth to 18 months). Baby Bundles will pick it up. The pandemic hasn’t put a dent in the goal of delivering 1,450 bundles to families in 2020. “When this is over,” Foust says, “we’re going to have a lot of catching up to do. Hopefully the volunteers will be ready to come back.”

Friendship Trays typically prepares and delivers 750 meals each day to the homebound and adult and children’s day cares. It takes 120 volunteers a day to make it happen. In all, 1,300 volunteers are on the roll. And now? Rather than 750 meals, Friendship Trays is delivering 120 no-contact meals a day to those who are most at risk. Staffers and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officers are fill-in drivers. Executive Director Lucy Bush Carter can’t wait for the volunteers to reignite the mission. “It’s just so drastically different and quiet around Friendship Trays,” she says. “I’m counting on volunteers returning. The richness that we have from all the volunteers in and out of here is so amazing.”

Loaves & Fishes relies on 4,000 volunteers to help provide a week’s worth of groceries to neighbors in need. In 2019, more than 80,000 people (36 percent of them children) were served at 41 pantries. On a typical day, several hundred volunteers help run pantries, sort food in the warehouse, answer phones and more. And now? Thirty volunteers (taking every precaution) a day are helping run mobile food pantries that are providing one prepacked box of groceries to each client plus whatever fresh foods are available. Executive Director Tina Postel says volunteers have just one job now: “Stay home and stay safe.” But when the pandemic is behind us? “I tell them we’re going to need each and every one of them long after this virus is gone.”

A final note: Nonprofits continue to welcome your prayers and support, but not in person. But you can still help- click here to see how you can #SHAREfromHome, now. The pandemic can limit our coming and going. It doesn’t have to limit our compassion.

Ken Garfield is a freelance writer, telling stories that bring the mission of charitable causes to life. Reach him at