10 Ways to Volunteer During a Pandemic

Published March 30, 2020
Elderly woman on phone appearing happy

If you have some extra time, you can put your skills and talents to great use with one of these ways to volunteer during a pandemic. From making masks to giving blood, there are lots of things you can do to help the world and your community when they need it most.

1. Become a Virtual Companion to Lonely Seniors

Seniors are hit especially hard by pandemics like the coronavirus. Because they are more at risk for complications than other age groups, many are self-isolating. A pandemic is a frightening time for everyone, and being a senior alone can make it even scarier and more difficult. Fortunately, you can volunteer from home and become a virtual companion to a senior who might be lonely.

  • Alone is an Ireland-based volunteer organization dedicated to pairing seniors with people who can check in and chat every week.
  • Compeer is based in New York and pairs volunteer with seniors who need emotional support or a virtual friend.
  • AgeSpace is a befriending organization base in the United Kingdom. They have a special protocol in place for supporting elders during a pandemic.

2. Make Masks for Healthcare Workers

If you have some crafting experience and a few supplies around the house, you can use your time to make DIY masks for healthcare workers. Although these masks don't have the protective capability of purchased options, they are better than nothing when supplies are short.

3. Staff a Crisis Center Remotely

Times of isolation can cause a spike in crisis hotline texts, and you can help by volunteering to staff a crisis textline. Sign up at Crisis Text Line, where you'll receive training on how to respond. Some people just need to know they aren't alone, and you can help.

4. Donate Your Time as a Virtual Student Mentor

If you have a background in education or just enjoy working with kids, a pandemic offers a unique opportunity to be of service to the next generation. During a pandemic, many kids are learning from home, and most parents are not trained as teachers or experienced in home schooling. You can add a consistent and helpful perspective to kids' education by donating your time. Call your local school district to get in touch with students locally. If you want to help high school and college students, you can sign up for a pairing on the site iCouldBe.

5. Give Blood While Maintaining Social Distancing

The Red Cross urgently needs blood, especially during a pandemic when blood drives are often cancelled. The organization has put social distancing practices in place to protect donors, such as spacing beds far apart, taking temperatures of donors, and sanitizing patient-contact surfaces. You can find out more about donating at the Red Cross website and learn where you can make a difference.

6. Make Hand Sanitizer for Others

If you have isopropyl alcohol or ethanol on hand, you can make your own hand sanitizer using a simple DIY hand sanitizer recipe. Bottle the sanitizer in smaller quantities and give it out to others who may need it. You can leave some for your mail person, drop some off for neighbors, or donate it to local organizations.

7. Drive or Collect Donations for Meals on Wheels

Meals on Wheels brings food to people who cannot easily get out to get it and who may not be able to afford it. Because a pandemic stresses this population so dramatically, the demand for organizations like Meals on Wheels is very high during these times. Additionally, volunteers become scarce because of health concerns. According to Meals on Wheels, in addition to driving meals, there are several ways you can help. These include collecting donations of gloves, disinfecting wipes, and plastic bags. If you are interested in driving for Meals on Wheels, the organization has implemented practices to keep drivers a safe social distance from others.

Man driving car happy to volunteer

8. Help Pick Up Grocery Orders and Other Essentials

Organization like Invisible Hands exist to help transport deliveries to those most vulnerable during a pandemic. Healthy, low-risk volunteers pick up grocery orders, prescription medications, and other essentials and then drop them off for people who need them. There is no in-person contact between the volunteers and the people who need the help, and the volunteers wear gloves and avoid contact as much as possible when running errands. If you're low-risk and don't have contact with anyone who is higher risk, this could be a great way to be of service.

9. Be the Eyes for Someone Who Is Blind

The blind and low vision population may be at higher risk for feelings of isolation during a pandemic, as social distancing reduces contact with others. You can help by signing up to volunteer with an organization like Be My Eyes. To help, you use your phone to read labels, check expiration dates, or offer your sight in any way that's needed.

10. Help With Local Virtual Volunteering Needs

From sewing masks for specific organizations like your local hospice to sending messages to seniors in a local nursing home, Volunteer Match has a special local listing of opportunities for virtual volunteering during a pandemic. You can search for specific types of volunteering or just browse the list of many requests. This is a great way to make a difference in your own community while still practicing social distancing.

Feel Connected and Useful

In a pandemic, it's easy to feel socially isolated. Helping your community and volunteering in other ways can have benefits for you as well as those you are assisting. You'll feel more connected and useful during a time of great stress for everyone when you use these ways to help during a pandemic.

10 Ways to Volunteer During a Pandemic