Kindness During Coronavirus Fear: The Most Inspiring Ways Americans Are Pulling Together

While social distancing and stay-in orders keep communities apart, Americans are finding ways to connect - and help one another

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The Yuen-Ryan Family

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Courtesy Noelle Yuen

When Noelle Yuen saw the email from the San Francisco SPCA asking for help, she had to respond. She and her husband, Patrick Ryan, and their two kids, Jake and Jenna (pictured), had canceled spring-break plans because of coronavirus, and now they were all cooped up at home. "We thought we could do something," says Yuen, who is now fostering three 8-week-old puppies - Gabe, Gaston and Ginger. "They're just bright spots in our day." Across the country, many people have followed suit - including celebrities.

02 of 21

An Anonymous Tipper

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Nick Galvan

With baseball season just weeks away, Nick Galvan, restaurant operations manager for Irma's Southwest, located just blocks from the Houston Astros' Minute Maid Park, had already hired four servers and two bartenders and rallied his cooking staff. Then suddenly on March 12, officials announced that they were postponing baseball season because of coronavirus. Business dropped 70 percent, and Galvan was faced with laying off 30 of his 36 staffers - until an anonymous tip of $9,400 on a $90 bill turned everything around. "We were going to shut down until, honestly, they left that tip," he says.

03 of 21

Nathan Nichols

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Courtesy Nathan Nichols

Portland, Maine, computer programmer Nathan Nichols admits he's "not a wealthy person." But when he feared the tenants in his rental property might lose their jobs, he decided to waive their April rent - a gesture being repeated by landlords large and small across the country. "So many people want to help," says Nichols. "That has really stood out to me."

04 of 21

Russell Wilson & Ciara

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Ciara/Instagram

On March 17, the Seahawks quarterback and his pop-star wife announced they were donating 1 million meals to Seattle-based organization Food Lifeline - a generous gesture they say was a no-brainer. "Seattle has given us so much," says Wilson, who joined the team as a rookie in 2012. "The whole city's been shut down, and you have people trying to pay rent or looking for food. God's given us the ability to give back."

05 of 21

Diana Vallorz

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Diana Vallorz

When California's stay-home order went into effect, "we thought about all the elderly people living alone with no family nearby," says San Jose pizzeria owner Diana Vallorz. Instead of a small thing, she and husband Al did a medium thing - offering to deliver free medium pizzas to anyone over 70 shut in at home. Since their Facebook offer went viral, Tony & Alba's Pizza and Pasta has delivered hundreds of pizzas, and donations have allowed them to add a free salad too.

06 of 21

Mo Willems

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Mo Wille/Instagram

Beloved children's book author Mo Willems is hosting a doodle session every day at 1 p.m. ET on YouTube. The artist - a Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence - is calling the series "Lunch Doodles," giving fans the opportunity to learn how to draw his quirky characters.

07 of 21

Jimmy Fallon & Family

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Jimmy Fallon and his daughters. NBC

After The Tonight Show suspended production, host Jimmy Fallon joined all the other parents who are working from home - but for a good cause. "My wife [Nancy] suggested we do a show from here," says Fallon, who's been hosting mini-episodes to benefit various charities. "There are so many good places that need money right now. And we want to help." The shows, available on YouTube, are a Fallon family affair with frequent appearances by daughters Winnie, 6, and Franny, 5.

08 of 21

The Snyder & France Families

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Vanessa France

Westminster, Massachusetts, cousins Annabelle and Danika Snyder and Madilyn, Olivia and Cameron France, staying home together while school isn't in session, have been writing and sending letters to cheer hospice patients.

09 of 21

Jennifer Garner & Friends

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Jennifer Garner and Amy Adams joined forces - and imaginations - to launch the #SaveWithStories initiative, where they and other celebrity guests read kids books on social media. The readings raise money for the non-profits Save the Children and No Kid Hungry, which are working to feed kids who are missing meal programs while school is suspended. Garner's Once Upon a Farm baby-food company has also stepped up, donating $50,000 to the effort. Since its launch, #SaveWithStories has gained more than 113,000 followers, and pals like Reese Witherspoon, Demi Lovato and Brie Larson have joined in on the reading fun.

10 of 21

Ryan Ang

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Ryan Ang

When officials closed down the parks and YMCAs near his home in Rochelle Park, New Jersey, high school basketball star Ryan Ang, 16, knew kids would have no place to play. So Ang, who runs a basketball-coaching business after school, began streaming his sessions free of charge from his living room on Facebook and Instagram. "It's so rewarding," says Ang, who has 75 trainees, "to see athletes being active and not just sitting at home all day doing nothing."

11 of 21

John Egan

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Michael Conway/Means of Production

Whiskey distillers across the U.S. have switched from making booze to hand sanitizer by mixing ethanol - the main ingredient in most sanitizers and a by-product of the distillery process - with glycerin and hydrogen peroxide. Mad River Distillers of Warren, Vermont, recently delivered a batch to local grocery workers, a nursing home and the post office, then invited the public to come fill up their own empty bottles. Says founder John Egan: "The important thing here is that everybody's pulling together."

12 of 21

Rihanna

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Bryan Bedder/Getty

Though her Clara Lionel Foundation, the singer gave $5 million to nonprofits helping in the crisis.

13 of 21

Jayden Perez

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Courtesy Ana Rosado

Jayden Perez of Woodland Park, New Jersey, used his own money and his mom's credit card to buy sanitizer in bulk and share it with local police and firefighters. "It makes my heart warm so much," says Perez (with sanitizers he's sent through New Jersey). "I'm super-thankful to donate- it makes me smile."

14 of 21

Blake Lively & Ryan Reynolds

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Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively. Mario Santoro/AdMedia/Zuma

The couple donated $1 million to be split between Feeding America and Food Banks Canada and urged fans to donate, as well.

15 of 21

John Legend & Other Entertainers

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Chrissy Teigen/Twitter

The musicians are stuck at home, the fans are stuck at home, and "we want to connect somehow," says John Legend, who performed March 17 from his Los Angeles home as part of the #TogetheratHome concert series, a partnership with the nonprofit Global Citizen that aims to fight poverty worldwide. Coldplay's Chris Martin played his own "mini-gig" on March 16 and took fan questions - but Legend's notoriously social-media-savvy spouse, Chrissy Teigen, took fan input a step further, letting fans choose what she wore for the show. (They chose a towel.) "We have to think of ourselves not just as individuals right now," says Legend. "We have to think about how our actions affect the whole society we live in and help each other."

16 of 21

Katie Quinn & Her 'Helpers'

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Courtesy Cinnaminson Helping Cinnaminson

Scrolling through her Facebook feed, Cinnaminson, New Jersey, teacher Katie Quinn realized that many of her friends wanted to help their neighbors but had no idea how. So Quinn created a community Facebook group to organize donations, requests and volunteers (pictured). "The outpouring has been wild," says Quinn, who's now sharing the model with neighboring towns.

17 of 21

John Rich

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Michael Loccisano/WIreimage

The singer vowed to keep paying the staff at his now-closed Redneck Riviera bar in Nashville "as long as the shutdown lasts. We aren't going to let people fend for themselves."

18 of 21

The Chino Hills High School Chamber Singers

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Imee Perius wanted to spread a little cheer in her community after California's Chino Valley Unified School District - where she works as director of communications - decided to close schools on March 13. Inspired by videos she'd seen of quarantined Italians singing from their balconies, Perius enlisted 19 members of the Chino Hills High School chamber singers to sing "Over the Rainbow" a cappella from their homes, then posted it online on March 17. Much to her - and the students' - surprise, the recording quickly began racking up more than a million views. "We would have never guessed," said senior Katelyn Mendoza, "that recording a three-minute video in our own rooms could provide such a grand message of hope in these negative times."

19 of 21

Kevin Love

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David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty

The Cleveland Cavaliers player gave $100,000 through his namesake foundation to support arena staff after the NBA season was suspended.

20 of 21

Food Bank Volunteers

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Food Bank of the Southern Tier in Upstate New York

Around the country, soup kitchens and food banks continue to do what they can to help the most vulnerable as donations slow and volunteers face restrictions. Here, food bank volunteers in New York pack emergency boxes.

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This week’s issue of PEOPLE.

For more on those helping others - and how you can help, too - pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

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