In many ways, the coronavirus epidemic has brought the world together, even as we are forced to remain physically apart. Many of us feel compelled to help our neighbors and our communities, but might be wondering, “What can I do?”
There are a number of things we all can do to at least feel a little better, maybe even empowered, while struggling through this collective nightmare.
Donate to food charities
There is no more critical time than now to help feed the hungry!
The Food Depot is one of northern New Mexico’s food lifelines, and the organization understands that during this health crisis its efforts are even more critical. It is taking strides to escalate its food acquisition, calling for more volunteers, as well as more donations. “The Food Dept will continue to support its partners in hunger relief—through prioritizing hunger relief efforts that provide the most impact while posing the least risk of exposure.” It has increased to three distribution points in Santa Fe and has many others throughout northern New Mexico including Angel Fire, Raton, Las Vegas, Espanola, Chama, and more.
Roadrunner Food Bank in Albuquerque, a Feeding America member, distributes food to hundreds of member partners around the state including food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens, etc. It is in need of financial donations as well as donations of non-perishable food. And also has put out a call for more volunteers—of course while practicing social distancing. To learn more about all its needs, please visit the Roadrunner Food Bank website.
You also can visit Feeding America’s website to find a food bank near you that could use donations.
Help healthcare workers
The need is great for face masks, N95 masks, gloves, disposable gowns and hand sanitizer. If you have these items (personally or through your business), your local healthcare workers need them! If you can manage to find products at stores and purchase them to donate that would be greatly appreciated, too. Some locations are accepting handmade fabric masks (but check to find out before donating). You can search on a website with an aim to get protection equipment (PPE) to healthcare heroes—which gives you a local level accounting of what medical providers need.
For example, as of the time of this writing, Presbyterian Hospital in ABQ is requesting N95s, surgical masks, face shields, disposable booties, safety goggles, gloves, gowns, coveralls, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and thermometers. If you have any, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. And in Rio Rancho, Rust Medical Center is seeking N95s, face shields, safety goggles, and hand sanitizer. The contact there is email@example.com. In Santa Fe, Community Options Inc. seeks N95s, gloves, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and thermometers.
While there continues to be a battle amongst the experts about the merits of face masks for the general public, many crafters are in their element and can help healthcare and essential workers as well as their own families and neighbors. Although these handmade items are not medical grade, they still have the ability to keep one’s hands off one’s face while in public, and perhaps help in other ways as well. A study was just conducted by the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine to see which cloth materials not only allowed for breathability but also filtered out small particles. The study found that, “the best masks were constructed of two layers of heavyweight ‘quilters cotton’ with a thread count of at least 180, and had thicker and tighter weave,”
Check on high-risk neighbors
Not all elderly folks and those with high-risk health conditions have friends and family to help them get groceries and medications. Offer to pick up groceries, pet food, medicines, and just touch base with them via email, texts, etc. Human interaction is as vital as food. And an in-person chat (as a safe distance of course) can go a long way to helping with emotional stress.
Be tech support
Many people aren’t set up to use technology to keep in contact with people. Offer to help people remotely and talk them through some issues such as setting up video chats. And let them know they can troubleshoot with you as issues arise.
Hospitals are sounding the alarm about the shortage of blood available right now. If you can donate, great! Or help spread the word that there is a great need right now. Visit www.redcrossblood.org to find a blood drive near you and read the latest Red Cross guidance and protocols for donating blood during the coronavirus pandemic. The Red Cross is even stating that fully recovered COVID-19 patients may be eligible to help the sick.
Organize a diaper bank
It is not easy for people with young ones to get to the store and they don’t want to have to bring their infants and toddlers into a potentially unsafe space. In addition, these are many of the families that are being hardest hit right now financially. So maybe you know of families in your immediate area that could use help. Or another option is to donate to the National Diaper Bank Network.
Help non-profits and local businesses
New Mexico has a great number of vital non-profits that help improve the lives of so many of your friends and neighbors. And no doubt these resources are going to be in demand more than ever in the coming weeks and months. So help them weather this upcoming surge of need with a donation. In addition, your beloved neighborhood restaurant, gym, flower shop, and more are also feeling the financial squeeze. You can also help them by buying gift cards, purchasing “to go” meals, and keeping them in the public’s interest by writing positive reviews and/or sharing their social media posts.
Of course, it’s important to take care of yourself during this time too. Your mental health matters right now, and if the only thing you manage to do during this crisis is to keep yourself safe and healthy, that is OK! That is a major accomplishment too, and it’s not easy. Here are some simple things you can do to keep yourself grounded and cared for during stressful times:
Lucky for us, we can enjoy New Mexico’s glorious vistas from almost any neighborhood. Take a walk, or get on a remote trail and distract yourself in a safe way – giving people a wide space if you come upon anyone else doing the same. Fresh air, the warming spring sun, and mountain views can elevate your spirits and help keep your immune system optimal. Or start your outdoor clean up and gardening. According to a sanitation worker, the Caja Del Rio Landfill in Santa Fe is seeing an uptick in waste removal from people working in their yards and cleaning out their garages.
Art as therapy
As public spaces for entertainment close, you can find ways to get your artistic fix. Blast some YouTube, explore online radio apps, or check out one of many art museum virtual tours—some of the world’s most beloved art collections are available such as The Louvre, The Guggenheim, The Met, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
Limit your media diet
Being informed is important. However, the deluge of coronavirus news and sensationalized rumors is not helping our collective anxiety. So pick a few sources, and allow yourself to check the highlights. (Some of us feel comforted and informed by watching New York’s Governor Cuomo in his daily briefing). And then turn it all off and keep yourself busy in some positive way.
Stick to a routine
A routine can help establish a sense of normalcy, especially for those staying home with young kids and managing home school experiences. So set times for meals, school work, outdoor exercise, down time, etc. For those able to work at home, set up a work schedule, meals, and breaks. Go to sleep and wake as you normally would for work days. And make sure to schedule in some fun family time—oldies but goodies such as jigsaw puzzles, Monopoly, and charades are still good non-screen fun.
We understand how difficult this time is—and we know better days are ahead. So for now, buckle down, stay at home, enjoy your family, and stay safe!