From donating money to checking in on elderly neighbors, these are some of the best ways to help those around you in times of crisis

By Sophie Dodd
March 12, 2020 05:45 PM

As celebrities and people all over the world strive to protect themselves and their loved ones from COVID-19, a form of coronavirus, many are also seeking out ways to help their local communities and those most severely impacted by the pandemic. Below are some ways that you can help.

Take Precautions

Most importantly, it is crucial to continue taking preventative measures to help contain the spread of coronavirus, including washing your hands thoroughly and frequently with soap and water, practicing social distancing — particularly with high-risk people, such as seniors and those who are immunocompromised — and avoiding touching your face. The CDC has further recommendations, including cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces. If you feel sick, stay home and monitor yourself for symptoms.

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Donate Money

Nonprofits and various social organizations are a huge resource for those who may be hit hardest economically by the virus.

Local food banks are preparing for a surge in demand, as those whose livelihoods are likely to be impacted due to temporary business closures or self-quarantine measures turn to them for assistance. You can find and reach out to your local food bank at feedingamerica.org.

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Meals on Wheels America, an established nonprofit, relies on volunteers to deliver food to seniors in more than 5,000 communities across the United States, ensuring that those living alone are not left hungry or isolated. Monetary donations or volunteer assistance are in high demand, and further information on how to help and protect those who are most vulnerable can be found on the organization’s website.

Donate Blood

American Red Cross officials are urging eligible and healthy individuals to donate blood as soon as possible in order to prevent any potential shortages as concerns over COVID-19 rise. According to a press release, blood centers across the country have seen sharp declines in donations as citizens are worried that it may pose a risk to their health, which it does not.

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“It is safe to donate blood,” Admiral Brett P. Giroir, M.D. Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said in the press release.

“We need people to prevent the blood supply from getting depleted,” added Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “We need it not to get to the point that surgeries are having to get canceled. That’s something we absolutely do not want to have happen. To ensure an adequate blood supply we need people to come out and donate blood,” he added.

Support Small Businesses

As countries close their borders and businesses close their doors, many local shops may face severe financial strain when it comes to paying rent — and their employees.

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If you’re a regular anywhere — whether it’s a coffee shop where they’ve memorized your multi-hyphenate order or a salon where the colorist is always up-to-date on your love life — consider buying a gift card for yourself (or a friend!) to use there in the future. You’ll help the business stay afloat in a turbulent time, and as a bonus, it’ll feel like giving yourself a treat.

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While tipping is always a good practice, now is a time to be particularly generous with those who are delivering food or groceries or driving for ride-share services like Uber, allowing many people’s transitions to working from home and social distancing to be more manageable.

Be Compassionate

While physical health is a priority, it’s also important that people are mindful of their emotional well-being and that of those around them in times of turmoil. Check in on an elderly neighbor, speak with your loved ones, thank the public health providers and social service officers who are working to contain this virus.

Even if you aren’t directly impacted by the virus, chances are a friend’s travel plans have been, or a social event that you were looking forward to — an NBA game, or a Broadway show — has been canceled. Ask your friends and family members who own businesses how they’re coping. Video chat with anyone you know who is self-quarantined to keep them company. In a time of literal isolation, it’s crucial to find ways to build a sense of community.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.

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