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Editor’s note: This story was updated on March 26 to include information about volunteering during Gov. Scott’s “Stay Home” order.
Vermonters, known for being civic-minded, have taken to Front Porch Forum, Facebook and Twitter to see how they can help fellow residents prepare for the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Michael Wood-Lewis, founder of Front Porch Forum, said the online, community-based information service was seeing “dozens, probably hundreds” of posts from neighbors wanting to help out. Several ad hoc groups are organizing courier services to deliver supplies to neighbors who can’t leave their homes.
“That’s very common — people wanting to do something in this moment, which is heartening to see,” Wood-Lewis said.
This week, Gov. Phil Scott issued a “stay home” order, asking Vermonters to avoid going out unless their work is essential or for necessities like groceries or medications.
Still, there are ways Vermonters can continue to help. The order allows for volunteer work related to the coronavirus crisis to continue, as long as there is a safe work environment, according to Mark Bosma of Vermont Emergency Management. There are also opportunities to contribute without leaving your home, like sewing masks for certain medical professionals or donating to local funds.
Still, one of the best ways for healthy people to help out right now is by practicing what epidemiologists are calling “social distancing.”
“If you are healthy, but infected, and feeling fine, you not interacting with other people is going to slow this virus down,” explained Dr. Joshua White, chief medical officer at Gifford Medical Center.
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Regarding ad hoc courier services, White said organizers should take proper precautions. Don’t accept volunteers that are themselves ill or high-risk. Drop goods at recipients’ doors; don’t enter their homes, interact with them, and then do the same in another person’s home.
“Continuing to practice social distancing while they’re doing that would be key,” White said.
Beth Stern, executive director of the Central Vermont Council on Aging, said that some senior centers are stopping group meals, opting instead to have people pick-up pre-bagged meals. Stern said the local organizations she works with are concerned about losing volunteers for crucial efforts like meal delivery, and may start revising policies so meals can be left outside doors to minimize potential exposure. She also recommended checking in on older neighbors in a “safe way” — perhaps through phone or email — to see if they need anything.
“The older people are the riskier population here, and we can’t just ignore that,” she added.
The CDC has also put together a guide for community organizations preparing for the coronavirus.
On this page, we’ll be listing reader-submitted opportunities to volunteer or donate during the coronavirus outbreak. This is not a comprehensive list and will be updated on a rolling basis.
If you’re organizing a courier service or other assistance program, or work for a social service organization in need of donations, please send us the details at [email protected], subject line ASSISTANCE.
Quarantine Delivery Service – Burlington and South Burlington. Recovery Advocate Scott Pavek is seeking volunteers to deliver groceries and other items for those who are in self-quarantine. Request items here.
Rutland County Meals on Wheels is seeking volunteer delivery drivers. Contact Penny Jones at 802-775-0133.
Vermont Foodbank. Communications director Nichole Whalen says cash donations are more helpful than food or other items at this time.
Donate blood. The FDA has raised concerns about a blood shortage as donation drives are cancelled.
VTCOVID-19 Response Fund. The Vermont Community Foundation has set-up a special fund to help both with emergency response efforts and longer term recovery.
ANEW Place -Burlington transitional housing center accepting financial donations and cleaning supply donations.
NOFA Vermont’s Farmer Emergency Fund – Provides funding for farmers during emergency.
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Donate masks. Volunteers are sewing cloth masks for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and other hospitals. Donations allow the hospital to redeploy medical masks for critical care nurses and doctors. Masks can be dropped off in resealable plastic bags to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Service Center, Green Warehouse, 50 LaBombard Road North, Lebanon, New Hampshire.
Barrio Bakery in Burlington – accepting contributions from the community to support food donations to places including the Heineberg Senior Center.
Displaced college student assistance
University of Vermont mutual aid spreadsheet, Burlington. For recently displaced University of Vermont students.
School for International Training Student Emergency Fund. To help repatriate SIT students studying abroad and support online education.
Community organizers have created surveys for towns and villages around the state for residents who are willing to be called upon to help with everything from picking up groceries to doing peer-to-peer counseling.
BTV Mutual Aid, Burlington
Burlington Area Babysitting – Fill out this form if you’re interested in volunteering to babysit.
Jericho/Underhill — Phone directory for general assistance or meal delivery.
Thetford Emergency Management — offer or request help.
Statewide — “How Can I Help” Facebook group.
Statewide — COVID-19 Resource List. Maintained by a network of community organizers around Vermont.
Dairy Farm Milking Assistance. NOFA Vermont is seeking volunteers who are capbable of leading milkings if dairy farmers become sick. Email Bill Cavanaugh, [email protected], with your contact information, relevant experience on farms, location and availability.
Cathedral Square: Seeking volunteers to deliver packaged meals to their senior housing communities in Chittenden County and St. Albans and to fulfill delivery requests for individual residents. Contact Beth Alpert, [email protected] or 802-859-8870, to volunteer.
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