Here’s how you can help out during the COVID-19 pandemic in Illinois

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It’s easy to feel like so much is out of our control during the COVID-19 pandemic, but there are ways you can help out.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do is also one of the easiest: stay home. But if you’re looking for a way to pitch in more directly, here are a few suggestions:

Check on area seniors

Something as simple as knocking on your neighbor’s door and seeing if they are okay can have a big impact. Vulnerable individuals, including the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, may need some kind of assistance in this difficult time.

Social distancing guidelines discourage actually going inside and visiting with them, but you can still check on them from a respectable distance. And if they need help getting supplies and you are able to help, you could brave the grocery store or help them order online.

If you don’t know any nearby seniors, you can also sign up and volunteer to perform wellness checks either in person or over the phone. Many organizations that work with seniors are looking for help as well.

By taking the necessary precautions to make sure you’re not spreading the virus in the process, offering a (possibly gloved) hand to someone in need can be a real lifeline.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) includes goggles, gloves and masks

Donate protective equipment

Healthcare workers and first responders regularly use personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent the spread of the virus, leading to a skyrocketing demand for things like face masks, gowns and gloves.

Everyone from tattoo artists to contractors may have these supplies stockpiled in their businesses, and are encouraged to donate them to help meet the need. Individuals may have a few sitting around as well.

The State of Illinois is coordinating a donation effort of these much-needed supplies (check the list on their website), so long as they are in their original packaging and unopened.

For homemade face masks and other items, state officials recommend contacting your local police or fire department directly to see if they could use them.

Give blood

Celena Roldan, the CEO of American Red Cross in Illinois, says they’re facing a “severe blood shortage” due to an unprecedented number of blood drives being canceled due to coronavirus concerns.

She said more than 6,000 blood drives were canceled, including 120 in Illinois, leading to 200,000 fewer donations across the country. That donated blood is needed by patients undergoing surgery, in urgent care or who suffer from chronic conditions.

“One of the most important things that you can do to ensure we don’t have another health crisis is to give blood,” Roldan said.

Anyone can give blood by making a reservation with the Red Cross, as they work to follow social distancing guidelines.

Volunteers hand out food and other goods to hundreds of people during the Covid-19 crisis in Everett, Massachusetts on March 20, 2020. (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

Donate food or pitch in for anti-hunger efforts

With kids out of school and some people out of work, area food banks are struggling to keep up with a spike in demand.

You can help them fill the gap by donating non-perishable goods or giving money to groups like the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Other efforts are offering to turn monetary donations into fresh-cooked food for the homeless and others in need.

Assuming you’re not sick, you could also pitch in to help get food to the people who need it. Food banks are looking for volunteers to pack and deliver items to homes and shelters, and homeless service organizations still need volunteers to feed shelter guests.

A listing of all kinds of opportunities is available through serve.illinois.gov, and you can find volunteer needs in the Chicago suburbs through HandsOn Suburban Chicago.

For retired / inactive medical professionals

Are you a retired doctor, nurse or other medical professional, or do you have a professional background in a medical field?

The coronavirus pandemic is putting tremendous strain on the entire medical industry, and the State of Illinois is asking anyone with experience to sign up for their Medical Reserve Corps. Volunteers may be sent out to offer support in areas that need it most.

Foster a pet

Since you’re stuck inside anyways, why not open your home to a pet in need of a place to live?

Animal shelters like Tree House and Chicago Animal Care and Control are looking for volunteers interested in fostering some of their animals until they can find a forever home. Groups like PAWS Chicago also organize an emergency foster call tree in case they need to clear the shelter quickly.

When it comes to fosters, organizations like the Anti-Cruelty Society say they’ve already received enough applications, and Chicago Canine Rescue says they actually have no more dogs in need of foster homes.

But plenty of potential pets are still up for adoption at all these organizations! While shelters have changed to online applications, the ones mentioned above and other groups are still looking for forever homes for many dogs and cats.

Order from your favorite local restaurants

While there are plenty of benefits to donating and volunteering, one way to help your community that you will definitely enjoy is to order food (or get a gift certificate or some merch) from your favorite local restaurants.

The service industry and its workers are some of those that have been hit hardest by the economic effects of the coronavirus. And plus, today is “The Great American Takeout,” so there’s never been a better time to order out.

Check the website or social media account of your favorite local eateries to see what they’re doing. Some restaurants that didn’t offer delivery or takeout before are now using Tock or Caviar, and many are on popular delivery apps like Grubhub or Uber Eats.

You can also check this massive list of Chicago restaurants and what they offer.

Have a suggestion?

Is there a way to help out that we missed? Let us know in the form below, and we’ll be happy to add it. After all, we’re all in this together.

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