As we make our way through the 9th week of Massachusetts’ stay-at-home advisory, state and local officials discuss stages of a “soft opening” of different agencies and businesses, and when it will be safe to do so. In the meantime, communities continue to hunker down and adjust to what is now our new normal.
While social distancing is necessary to control the spread of the virus, we have seen inspiring solidarity in communities practicing social sharing, social embracing, and social connections, all while physical distancing. The resilience of our communities has shone in what has been the most horrific of times.
Grassroots groups are self-organizing to provide meals and assistance for seniors and others who are unable to leave their homes. Mini pantries are springing up on lawns supporting neighbors in need of food and neighbors wanting to give. Chalk art on sidewalks in neighborhoods, offer messages of hope.
Celebrity musicians, chefs, sports figures and actors are using their platforms on a national level to spread awareness, feed the hungry, to entertain, and raise funds to support the medical community and those impacted by the coronavirus. During this unprecedented time, it is essential to work on a smaller scale and support our local communities, residents, and businesses.
Fostering solidarity by small acts of kindness, sharing skills, volunteerism, and supporting small businesses are ways we can help our communities.
Volunteer for organizations providing critical services
Due to health and safety concerns, many volunteers who are at higher risk due to age or medical conditions, have had to restrict commitments to nonprofits who provide critical services. As COVID-19 continues to spread, food inequities continue to rise. If you can fill an important gap in the Massachusetts area, food banks could use your help.
Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB): GBFB is the largest hunger-relief organization in New England and is amongst the largest food banks in the country. Last year they provided 68.5 million pounds of nutritious food to people in need in Eastern Massachusetts, and they maintain a goal of providing three meals a day to each food insecure individual in this area. Their volunteers play a critical role in this mission, which is even more crucial now during the COVID-19 crisis.
Seniors are the fastest-growing food insecure population in Eastern Massachusetts. One in five older adults struggle with hunger, and many face additional challenges such as decreased mobility, rising healthcare costs, or are on a fixed income. The Greater Boston Food Bank helps ensure this senior population has access to the nutritious meals they need to stay healthy through their Brown Bag and Community Supplemental Food Programs.
Volunteers are needed to support the Brown Bag and the CSFP, both of which are high need/critical projects today. The GBFB values the health of the community and follows the CDC, local, and state public health guidelines. Volunteers are provided with disposable gloves and masks, and shifts are no larger than ten people. As the demand for food continues to rise, the services provided by the GBFB are even more essential. Consider supporting your community by either donating or volunteering today.
Support Small Businesses
There are nearly 49 million essential workers, more than 30 million unemployed, and an estimated 16 million Americans who have been working from home. As restrictions are slowly lifted, some workers will return to offices, some will continue to telecommute, and many unemployed will find they no longer have a job to go back to. Perhaps some of the hardest hit will be small business owners.
Specialty shops, restaurants, bars, florists, mom and pop businesses, and seasonal businesses who rely on tourism, face a severe economic risk. Some predictions suggest that as many as 75% of them may not survive the current crisis. This kind of loss will not only be felt by the owners and the staff they employ but by the cities and communities they helped define.
It has never been more critical than it is now to support your favorite local restaurant, hairdresser, nail salon, or independent brand. Below are a few examples of ways you can help your small community businesses:
Order delivery from independent restaurants: Although restaurants can no longer offer dine-in services, most do offer delivery service or curbside pick-up. As we have been advised to stay at home, there has never been a better excuse to order takeout. If possible, try to avoid contracted delivery services, as the restaurant incurs a fee. And, remember those who relied on tips before the pandemic will appreciate a generous tip even more at this time.
Purchase gift cards for regular services: You may have a relationship with a hairdresser, manicurist, esthetician, or holistic healthcare provider. Show an act of kindness and support by purchasing gift certificates to be used at a future date. This will help the revenue stream now when it is desperately needed.
Buy locally sourced produce and groceries: Rather than shopping in the supermarket chains, consider patronizing small local grocers, butchers, bakeries and bagel shops. You will find most open for business offering curbside pick-up. If you do shop in the large chain markets, look for fresh produce and other products locally sourced and sold at the market.
Shop small online: Don’t forget that many small businesses are accessible online. Whether you need a book, office supplies, occasional gift, or masks (which will be a staple in our wardrobes), head to personal websites or Etsy rather than the big box retail chains. Unique and handcrafted items from small local businesses often make the best gifts.
The strength of the nation is built on the strength of individual communities. The coronavirus has impacted every person, but our station in life will influence our experience. Some will suffer much more than others and will need the support of our friends and neighbors. “Boston Strong” values respect, inclusivity, patience, integrity, and joy…… with these values, we will triumph over tragedy!