TUPELO • The need for volunteering remains even as COVID-19 impacts the ways in which people can assist and offer services.

When the pandemic first hit, Volunteer Northeast Mississippi offered both nonprofits and volunteers guidance on how to safely volunteer and lower the risk of volunteering.

“Some of the nonprofits have had to change the way they do services, which means they are also changing the way that volunteers are doing their volunteering,” said Rebecca Nelson, director of Volunteer Northeast Mississippi.

Some organizations, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Mississippi and the American Red Cross, have moved to offering virtual volunteer options. The American Red Cross volunteers can visit the Red Cross website at www.redcross.org.

Others have shifted services to meet current needs. Wear It Well raised more than $1,500 for Caris Cares to make hand sanitizer for front line workers. Food security services have moved to to-go meals and reduced contact between clients and volunteers.

Nelson said volunteers are trying to do everything they can to stay safe by wearing masks and gloves and trying to socially distance as able. Volunteers need to be healthy, meaning for those with chronic conditions or any factors that make them at risk for COVID-19, now is still not the time for them to return to volunteering.

For those who want to support nonprofits but can’t volunteer, Nelson said monetary donations or any amount can help.

Volunteer numbers have dropped significantly almost everywhere except feeding programs, Nelson said. Part of the drop was due to many nonprofits being forced to pause or reduce services due to the pandemic. Despite this, Nelson believes they saw increased volunteer interest as people saw the needs in the community increase. She personally saw new volunteers for Saints’ Brew and believes there is a chance volunteerism becomes more popular and a part of people’s new routine.

“I think in some ways, COVID may have opened a door for some new people to get involved in volunteering because they maybe hadn’t appreciated the need for it before,” Nelson said.

There are many ways people can volunteer from home. A list of 25 volunteer jobs to do at home is linked on https://volunteernems.galaxydigital.com under “Virtual Volunteer Opportunities.” The Operation Warm list offers various activities with national organizations, such as reading books to children or seniors, providing emotional support and crisis assistance, helping track birds and others.

For those who want to assist local agencies, Nelson had a few suggestions. Agencies that have reopened, such as Regional Rehab, must now do more sanitizing than before. Collecting cleaning supplies for agencies can also help agencies that may be short on funds and have additional expenses with increased sanitizing. Items can be collected as a church, such as at one’s church or home, and people can make use of a drop off box to allow anyone to participate while reducing one-on-one contact.

People can also create care packages for the homeless population. Nelson said while there haven’t been any COVID-19 incidents in the local homeless population, there was still a need for hygiene and personal care products for daily prevention and care. She also encourages people to provide first aid supplies and feminine products to both domestic violence and homeless shelters, and continue donating pet supplies such as food and toys to animal shelters.

Families can choose to adopt nursing home residents and send letters or artwork from a child to help brighten their day. Nelson also encourages donating blood, as organizations such as Vitalant are at a critical stage with needing more donors. Litter pickup is an option, and people can volunteer directly with organizations by reaching out to nonprofits and asking if they can help with mail-outs or doing yardwork for nonprofits with buildings.

“We obviously want everyone to stay safe, but I think people also want to feel needed,” Nelson said. “Hopefully, some of these ideas will get their brains going and they can be as creative as they want to be.”

For those who want to support nonprofits but can’t volunteer, Nelson said monetary donations or any amount can help.

Volunteer opportunities can be found at https://volunteernems.galaxydigital.com/need/.


Twitter: @Danny_McArthur_

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