Got Time to Spare? Volunteers Needed.
Amid the pandemic, these community groups are identifying and helping neighbors in need. Join them.
Arlington Community Corps
It’s like the Peace Corps, but local. If you’re interested in sharing your skills, consider joining the Arlington Community Corps, launched on March 23 in response to the COVID-19 crisis. “Government cannot do this alone,” says organizer and former school board member Abby Raphael. “The Corps is a network of residents who can quickly share needs, resources and ideas with each other.” As of April 1, the Corps had 181 volunteers and counting. “We are also trying to recruit co-captains for every civic association in Arlington,” Raphael says. “The first activity we are suggesting for each civic association is a food drive for the Arlington Food Assistance Center.” The Corps is also now working with the county to coordinate food distribution to local residents who cannot leave their homes. (More on that effort here.) To become a volunteer, go to beaneighbor.vomo.org/org/arlington-community-corps, find your neighborhood and register. To become a civic association co-captain, email Corps co-founder Evan Burfield at email@example.com.
Falls Church Area COVID-19 Aid
Falls Church City residents have launched a grassroots effort to assist neighbors in need, including the elderly and people with disabilities, with problems ranging from dead cellphone batteries and dwindling toilet paper supplies to dog-walking and vet visits for sick pets. The network, which has a Facebook page, Falls Church Area COVID-19 Aid, was spearheaded by residents Mike Michener, Ally Bernstein and Tamar Abrams. “I lived in Rome for four years…and have heard heartwarming stories about how young Italians are checking on their elderly neighbors and doing the shopping so they can stay home and safe,” says Michener. “I thought we could do something similar here.” He floated the idea on the social networking platform Nextdoor and it quickly gained momentum. The relief effort now has more than 100 volunteers, including phone operators (the hotline is 703-982-0736), logistics coordinators, retail “runners” providing no-contact deliveries and others doing whatever is needed.
Arlington Neighbors Helping Each Other Through COVID-19
In Arlington, a Facebook page, Arlington Neighbors Helping Each Other Through COVID-19, has amassed more than 8,400 followers and raised more than $11,000 for the Arlington Food Assistance Center within days of its formation. The page has since become a clearinghouse of sorts. Through community posts, members have identified and responded to countless other needs, big and small—coffee and food donations for health care workers; free online yoga and fitness classes for bored kids and stressed adults; mental health support; public safety guidelines; simple words of encouragement and much more. Little free libraries have been converted into mini canned food pantries. Craft supply drives (via Amazon wish lists) have put creative tools in the hands of low-income kindergartners stuck at home. At least one local photographer began offering “front porch” family photo sessions (using digital image transfer and the recommended social distancing) with proceeds going to local charities. The page, which was created by Arlingtonian Kellen MacBeth, has also provided moments of levity and inspiration during a time of crisis, from videos of roving bagpipers to snapshots of children’s sidewalk chalk art.
Community Mask Makers
As health care workers continue to face dire shortages of surgical masks and other protective gear, local residents with access to sewing machines and 3D printers are stepping up. More than 800 “craftivisits” with the Virginia-D.C.-Maryland chapter of the Million Mask Challenge are sewing masks and surgical caps for medical and veterinary staff, as well as individuals with a heightened risk for contracting coronavirus. (Ready to fire up your sewing machine? You can watch an instructional video here and download a pattern here.) In addition to those handy with a needle and thread, the effort is enlisting volunteers to help with fabric donations, order logistics, pickups and deliveries. See our previous story for more information. Meanwhile, a professor at Marymount University is rallying folks with access to 3D printers to make face shields for health care workers, using an open source design. Read our story here for more details on that project and how to pitch in.
Friendly Phone Calls
Loneliness has been a tough side-effect of social distancing, particularly for elderly residents in assisted living who, for public safety reasons, have not been allowed visitors. Culpepper Garden, an assisted-living community in Arlington, has enlisted members of the larger community as friendly callers to check in with residents by phone. “To date, 13 volunteers have signed up—most coming through our faith-based partners,” says executive director Linda Kelleher. “We have 24 residents who have requested a friendly caller. We are in the process of screening volunteers, developing a short ‘how-to’ script and alerting residents.” To volunteer as a phone caller, contact volunteer manager Hannah Becker-Menditto at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arlington Chamber Volunteer Day
Support for Survivors
Economic stress and stay-at-home orders are creating added dangers for victims of domestic and sexual violence. Doorways for Women and Families has created a collection of posters that you can easily print on your home printer, on standard-size office paper, for public distribution in grocery stores, apartment buildings, medical offices and other “essential” places people are still allowed to visit. Please print the posters and ask local businesses and grocery stores to hang them where they can be seen. It’s especially important that these resources are available in places that survivors are permitted to go during this period of isolation. Download the posters here.
Got a tip on another grassroots effort that is addressing critical community needs and is seeking volunteers? Email email@example.com.