From Brooklyn to west Michigan and beyond, volunteers are participating in the foundation's "Global Volunteer Month" initiative

By Sam Gillette
April 03, 2020 11:39 AM
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Credit: Ian Bradshaw/REX/Shutterstock

Local volunteers and organizations are rallying behind George H. W. Bush‘s foundation, Points of Light, to promote good works they’re doing in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“In less than one week, we have shifted our mission to meet the academic, emotional and nutritional needs of our students, their families and the most vulnerable members of the Brooklyn community,” said Dana Rachlin, the executive director of NYC Together, in an Instagram video posted on March 26. “We have been able to provide 15 students with devices for remote learning, along with hire local people who have been laid off to facilitate 15-plus hours a week of virtual tutoring. [We’ve] also provided care packages for meals while school is out.”

Rachlin tagged area businesses that provided food and resources as well as #LocalLight — the new volunteering initiative created by Points of Light.

Before the coronavirus brought much of the world to a standstill last month and almost everyone was urged to stay indoors to avoid spreading the infection, the volunteerism-focused nonprofit planned to announce April as its first-ever “Global Volunteer Month.”

Now that the pandemic threatens the way of life for many people, the leaders at Points of Light, including Neil Bush, the late president’s son and chairman of the foundation, hope the initiative can help those made most vulnerable by the pandemic — including by promoting “virtual volunteerism.”

“Over the past few weeks, we have seen powerful stories of everyday citizens around the world rising to the occasion to lift up their local communities in a time of crisis, provide a lending hand to their neighbors, help keep the lights on at small businesses and donate to important causes from the safety of their homes,” Natalye Paquin, president and CEO of Points of Light, said in a statement.

She continued: “While the idea for Global Volunteer Month was conceived long before we knew what devastating effects COVID-19 would leave on our society, we believe more than ever that now is the time to recognize people for their current and longtime support of our communities. We are seeing innovative ways to help at a critical moment in history when the nonprofit industry and our hometowns both need support—and the solution is people power.”

Points of Light offers resources to virtual volunteers and provides a database full of opportunities and projects to do at home.

All the organization asks is that people act. And that’s exactly what community members across the country have been doing.

“Esha and Shreyaa Venkat of Ashburn, VA are not letting the #coronavirus stop them from helping the homeless,” NEST4US, a teen-led volunteer nonprofit, wrote on Instagram on March 23. “They’re continuing to make blessing bags through their non-profit NEST4US.”

The three children in the Farris family in Bridgeville, Delaware, teamed up to help entertain kids at home by providing things like coloring books, children’s books and activities to local families. The Farris kids were even featured on their location TV station.

“How are you being a Local Light?” the kids asked in a Facebook video posted by Suzanne Farris on Sunday.

The volunteers for Kid’s Food Basket in Michigan are working just as hard. The organization provides healthy evening meals to children at the poverty level. Now they’re working on filling the void caused by the pandemic, which has sent parts of the economy spiraling and stranded millions of workers.

“During this global pandemic we’ve adjusted our programming and are serving as many children and families as possible,” said Bridget Clark Whitney, president and CEO of Kids’ Food Basket, in a Facebook video posted on Monday. “Our work is so critical, especially at a time like this. Food is medicine and healthy food is critical to keep a strong immune system.”

Whitney added: “We know that sometimes when things seem at their worst, we have an opportunity to be our best.”

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