You’re not alone this hard year if you feel out of time, money and/or energy to give back: though eight in ten Canadians believe charities need more help during the COVID-19 pandemic, seven in ten gave less last year than they usually would, according to statistics from Imagine Canada, which supports charities and non-profits across Canada. The good news is there are ways to give that cost nothing, and thanks in part to COVID, volunteering efforts have become more innovative than ever. By staying safe and following public-health guidelines, of course, here are some suggestions for ways you can give back to your community.
Declutter for the Greater Good
Any number of shelters in many cities can actually use many things you no longer have use for or need. Use at-home hours to downsize and donate: clothes, toiletries, sheets, and towels are always welcome, but call first to ask about books, electronics, and appliances—or anything else that you’re otherwise tossing to the curb—for people settling into new housing.
More and more support networks have moved away from a vintage call-centre model in favour of technology that can be utilized from just about anywhere. Youth crises services in particular have modernized to operate via text messages—often 24/7, totally free, no-data-required—meaning volunteers can do their part at home, on their own time, with merely a cellphone.
Support your Local Food Bank
Not too long ago, volunteering at your local food bank probably involved lugging heavy cans in big boxes. But not so today: the Queen’s Class of 2020’s charity, Food Banks Canada, for example, collaborates with more than 3,000 local food banks and almost certainly one near you. The organization now partners with grocery stores to make your part easier than ever before: you simply buy featured products and the company that makes them matches your generosity via direct donation.
Be a Good Neighbour
You can’t fix the world, but you can be the world to someone. No doubt someone nearby needs a helping hand—whether it’s a front-line worker or someone stuck in quarantine, a single parent or pregnant person, a senior or someone with a disability—so make a friend and offer your time. Get in the habit of every time you hit the grocery store or pharmacy or post office, to touch base first to see if you can grab their order and drop it off en route.
Foster or Adopt a Furry Friend
Though even closed animal shelters need volunteers to feed and clean animals, you can still help out without leaving your house—if you invite an animal in to keep you company. Now’s a great time for anyone considering a pet to finally go for it. For a few cans of food per week, you can make a world of difference to a foster pet who needs a home. But adopting or fostering a pet isn’t the only way to contribute. Keep an eye out for neighbours with pets who need help or volunteer programs in your community like the Lost Paws program, a student-led organization within the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society, to walk pets for people who are not able to leave home.