Here are some ways we can be there for each other, even though we're physically apart

By Andrea Wurzburger
March 20, 2020 08:26 AM

Here’s the long and short of it: Doing good makes you feel good. Right now, the coronavirus pandemic has many people working from home or practicing social distancing to help slow down the spread of the virus. While many of us are at home, there are plenty of people on the frontlines who are fighting in the trenches and putting themselves in harm’s way. That means we’re all probably feeling isolated and a little bit helpless as to what else we can be doing to make others feel positive, supported and safe during this time.

We polled our friends and staffers here at PEOPLE to see what they’ve been doing to positively affect people in their community, family and friends in ways that have nothing to do with distance. Here are some of their tips for ways we can help.

By Donating!

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Whether you’re healthy and donating blood or giving your resources to charities and people who need them most, the fact of the matter is that a lot of organizations are struggling to meet demand. If it’s possible, donate to an organization you’re passionate about or to a non-profit you know is going to be hurting without patrons.

Here are some ideas for where to give:

By Supporting Freelancers

A lot of people are out of work due to the fact that bars, restaurants, theaters, schools, offices, gyms and more have closed their doors. If you’re lucky enough to be working from home, remember that there are some people who are not quite as lucky. Many, many people are out of work and have no idea when that is going to change.

“I’ve been doing my best to support local actors, craftsmen and comedians who haven’t been able to perform since theaters and nightclubs were shut down. I started by donating money to The Actor’s Fund, which provides a slew of services including emergency financial assistance not just actors but also dancers, stagehands, lighting and costume designers and more,” PEOPLE writer/reporter Dave Quinn says. “And then I’ve been seeking out local comedians who have shared their standup sets online and have been Venmo’ing them financial contributions. In a way, it’s much cheaper than those two-drink minimums!”

Here are some other ways you can help your freelancing friends:

  • Venmo your freelancer friends a few dollars for groceries! Times are hard and little pockets of kindness are appreciated.
  • Shout them out on social media! If they’re offering remote services, get their message out to as many people as possible within your circle. Keep an eye out for any opportunities for work that come up.
  • Ask your friends who teach fitness classes for a virtual training session. Just because you’re stuck inside doesn’t mean that you can’t move your body, and a lot of gyms being closed means there are a lot of personal trainers and fitness instructors out of work and ready to kick your butt from the comfort of your own home.

By Supporting Small Businesses

One of my friends asked, “Does spending all my money to keep my local natural wine store afloat count?” It does! Supporting small businesses is imperative right now, especially as many stores and restaurants have had to close as a result of the spread of COVID-19. If you are feeling ill, please do not leave your home for any unnecessary excursions, but ordering wine, food and other goods is totally allowed. Just be sure to exercise social-distancing when the goods change hands. (And tip your delivery workers well! They’re putting themself in harm’s way to serve you.)

Here are some other ways to support small businesses:

  • People.com’s Lifestyle Director, Alex Apatoff, is ordering all her self-isolation books (and those for her kid) from small bookstores (so far, that includes Chicago’s Seminary Co-op, Winnetka, Ill.’s Book Stall, and New York City’s Book Culture and Bank Street Bookstore). “Though not every independent bookstore’s website is set up to search as easily as Amazon, I’ve always found if you email looking for a specific book, they’re happy to order and ship it out to you ASAP!” she says. Prefer ebooks? Shop locally on IndieBound.
  • Shout out a small business on Instagram.
  • Buy gift cards now to be used when all of this is over.

By Checking in On Our Neighbors

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The elderly are particularly at risk with COVID-19, so taking a moment to call your relatives, neighbors or family friends who may need you to pick up groceries or run an errand for them. Of course, exercise caution and do not go out if you feel ill, and always disinfect and limit contact with an elderly or immunocompromised person.

  • Start simple: text a friend or family member and ask them if they could use any help in the coming days. Open the lines of communication!
  • Start a grocery chain in your neighborhood, that way you can take turns going to grab groceries for people who cannot make it outside.
  • This is an isolating time. For many elderly or immunocompromised people, not having visitors means that they do not get to interact with others during the day. Reach out for a phone call and spend some time with them from afar.

By Getting in Touch (Without Touching)

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Overwhelmingly, when asked how they’re helping their friends, people said that they were going to be reaching out and setting up FaceTime dates.

  • Send your friends memes (self-distancing-related or not) to give each other a laugh.
  • Schedule post-work-from-home happy hours with your co-workers and friends! Just because you can’t drink at a bar doesn’t mean you can’t grab a glass of wine and gossip from the comfort of your house.
  • You can also gather for neighborhood happy hours … from a distance.
  • Set up FaceTime dates with friends who you haven’t talked to in a while. Now’s the time to catch up with your freshman year roommate.

By Having Playdates with Pals From Afar

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PEOPLE Pets Editor Kelli Bender suggests “having an online trivia night with friends,” while PEOPLE Editorial Assistant Morgan Smith says she’s “playing a lot of iPhone games with friends” for an easy way to pass time. “We all work full-time,” Smith says, “so it’s good to slow down and just re-connect.”

Here are a few more ideas for games with your pals:

  • Organize a group video chat and play a board game. There are a ton of them online.
  • Two Truths and a Lie, Never Have I Ever, Truth or Dare or literally any other childhood favorite you played at a sleepover with pals.

By Getting Outside

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If you’re quarantined with other people, Smith suggests taking a walk. “I’m in self-isolation with my parents, so me and my mom try to take a walk together once a day.” It’s still safe to take a stroll in your neighborhood, and the fresh air does a body (and mind) good!

Here are a few other ideas:

  • Doing a group workout … from a social safe distance.
  • Start a group fitness challenge with your coworkers to stay active.
  • Leave sidewalk chalk notes for when people go on their social distance approved walks.

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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