As we continue to grapple with the uncertainty the novel coronavirus pandemic has brought worldwide, it can be easy to feel increasingly isolated from the world around you. Suddenly, little interactions throughout the day like chatting with the barista at your favorite coffee shop or the cashier at the supermarket are no longer there, and in its place is a feeling of isolation that is being experienced by people all over the world.

Thankfully, the resilience of the human spirit is strong, and people all around the world have done their part to “flatten the curve” and to protect those with weak or compromised immune systems from contracting COVID-19. Local communities have never been more critical in helping the most vulnerable face challenges and in building networks for long-term assistance.

As the country begins to focus on re-opening, as citizens it is our responsibility to look after one another and to foster engagement in our own communities while keeping ourself and others safe.

Introduce yourself to your neighbors
In this modern world, our social media accounts often know more about us than our own neighbors do. One of the first steps you can take in building community spirit is simply introducing yourself to those within it. While you can’t knock on each of their doors and saying hello face to face as you once would have done, a simple solution is simply writing a note of introduction and either posting it on your front door or leaving copies at the homes of each of your neighbors. You can include your name, phone number, email address, and a message saying you’re available if they need assistance or want to connect. If you know of a specific neighbor that is elderly or immunocompromised, you can also reach out to them directly and see if you can do their shopping for them or provide any additional assistance.

Another way you can connect with your neighborhood community is to set up an online group. Facebook, Slack, Whatsapp, and NextDoor are all great options for getting things started, and once it is set up it can be the perfect setting to create a “needs/have” running list. Whether you are running low on toilet paper or you accidentally purchased a 50lb bag of flour instead of 5lb and want to give some away, coming together, even online, can help foster community. Here as well, community members can offer assistance for things like dog walking, picking up groceries, babysitting and other acts of togetherness for their neighbors.

Volunteer for a local charity

Now more than ever, your local charities will need assistance in continuing to provide their vital services in the midst of a pandemic. You can assist in delivering groceries and meals through local arms of national organizations such as Meals on Wheels, or if these aren’t available in your location you can take the initiative and start your own. Many nursing homes are no longer allowing visitors, and their organizers are calling on people to write cards and letters to those who are no longer benefiting from the organized visits. Crisis hotlines have also become overwhelmed as people grapple with anxiety, loneliness, and depression during the shelter in place, and now, more than ever, people are desperately in need of someone to lend a comforting ear.

Depending on the size of your city or town, there may be an organization set up to place volunteers to do specific tasks during the pandemic. Check the COVID-19 page on your city or county website to find out if you can sign up to offer your time this way.

Donate blood and plasma

Donating blood is essential to community health, and whether your area is reopening or still has restrictions, blood donation centers are considered essential business and still open. The donation centers are thoroughly following safety protocols and as hospitals begin elective procedures again the need for donations will continue to rise.

If you live in the US, the Red Cross is also specifically asking for plasma donations from people who have fully recovered from COVID-19. Their website states that people who have fully recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies in their plasma that can attack the virus, and it is being evaluated as treatment for patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections, or those judged by a healthcare provider to be at high risk of progression to severe or life-threatening disease.

Support your local restaurants and businesses

Eating locally during the coronavirus pandemic is one essential and yet often forgotten way to support your community. The restaurant industry has been one of the hardest hit since the onset of the virus, already operating with razor thin margins before they lost the ability to entertain guests. While major chains will most likely survive this blip in their sales, smaller local restaurants rely on the communities they reside in to keep them afloat. Ordering to go from the restaurants close to you is a great way to try some new food while also supporting those that make your neighborhood and community unique.

Many restaurants have also begun selling produce and pantry items as a way to support themselves, so consider purchasing some of your groceries from them rather than a supermarket chain. They are often purchasing seasonal produce from local farmers, so you are supporting businesses twofold when you do so. Also, non-essential shops such as nail spas, coffee shops, and nail salons could also benefit from you purchasing a gift card for when they are able to open up again.

Participate in your community groups online

Grow your sense of community by joining or creating a group with similar interests online. A monthly book club over Zoom is a fantastic way to both pass the time and form connections with people while properly socially distancing. Many religious organizations are also holding their community events online, as well as Alcoholics Anonymous and other established organizations. Many gyms now have their personal trainers and class instructors live streaming workouts, and there have even been streamed dance parties! During this stressful time, we are lucky if we have access to high speed internet, as it opens us up to connections to the greater community of the world around us.

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