If you are healthy and able, here are some steps you can take to help your community during the coronavirus pandemic.

Got other ideas? Email [email protected] with suggestions for this list, and we will keep adding to it.

First, stay at home.

Social distancing and isolation can be unpleasant, inconvenient and even depressing. But following this recommendation and others from public health officials can make a real difference in stopping the spread of coronavirus. Staying healthy is the best way to help you and your community.

Check up on elders and neighbors.

Check on your neighbors, especially those who are elderly or live alone, and make sure they have food and other supplies. The Southern Maine Agency on Aging has a guide on its website for what older adults need to know, and how people of all ages can help them. For example, make sure your elderly loved ones have the medications they need and see if you can help them get extra supplies.

Donate goods or money.

Food pantries, shelters for homeless people and victims of domestic violence, animal shelters and other aid organizations will struggle to find supplies.

Some organizations are not able to accept donations of used items right now, so financial donations would be more helpful. Again, contact the organizations you wish to support or check their websites to find out how to best meet their needs during this stressful time.

Here are a few organizations that are seeking support:

In addition to donating directly to nonprofits such as those listed below, you can contribute to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund at the Maine Community Foundation. That fund will support the work of nonprofits on the front lines of the response to coronavirus, like area agencies on aging, community action programs, homeless shelters, food pantries and other organizations that address hunger and provide food. Learn more about that fund and how to donate at mainecf.org.

The United Way of Greater Portland has started a similar relief fund and is accepting grant applications from organizations. Money will be awarded to organizations and municipalities serving vulnerable populations most affected by coronavirus impacts, like those who are experiencing homelessness or are in imminent danger of homelessness. Learn more about that effort and contribute to the fund at unitedwaygp.org.

The Good Shepherd Food Bank, which is the largest hunger relief organization in Maine, expects increased demand in coming weeks and may experience a decline in donated food from businesses that are now closed. Monetary donations can be made through its website, gsfb.org, to help provide meals during this time.

The Locker Project is another organization that’s working to end hunger in Maine, and it has been providing bags of staples and fresh produce in recent days at school meal distribution sites. Learn more about their efforts on their Facebook page or make a donation at mainelockerproject.org.

The Maine Association of Nonprofits has a list of food pantries around the state that rely on donations. The association also suggests that we don’t ask for refunds on tickets to canceled events hosted by nonprofits. That sale becomes a donation. Read more about that suggestion and others from the association on its website.

Through These Doors is a domestic-violence resource center that serves Cumberland County. The organization cannot accept donations of hygiene products and children’s items right now, so money is needed to purchase those items and other supplies. Those gifts can be made online at throughthesedoors.org. If you do not live in Cumberland County and you want to support the domestic violence resource center in your area, visit the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence website.

The YWCA Central Maine is still providing childcare and meals for families of medical professionals, first responders and other essential workers during this time. The Lewiston-based organization is in need of financial donations, which can be made online at ywcamaine.org. Individuals wishing to donate supplies should call 795-4050 to discuss the current urgent needs.

The Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland is not accepting donations of linens at this time, but food donations are still welcome. The shelter runs a pet food pantry, which is still open. More information is available online at arlgp.org. The Animal Welfare Society in Kennebunk has a similar policy and wishlist on its website.

Support health care providers.

The state has created forms for people who want to help purchase critical medical supplies or donate certified medical supplies. Visit the “Maine Helps” page on the governor’s website.

If you have supplies like N95 masks that you want to donate to your local hospital, don’t just show up at the front door. Call ahead to ask about their needs and the safest way to make your donation. If you want to donate to a hospital or provider in the MaineHealth network, you should fill out a form on their website.

Support local businesses and restaurants.

Small businesses are struggling to stay open and keep providing incomes for their workers. That’s especially true for restaurants and others business that are not allowed to host gatherings. One option to support those businesses is to buy gift cards or class passes to be used later.

The Portland Press Herald has been sharing information on its Twitter account about restaurants that are offering takeout or delivery. Find that thread at twitter.com/PressHerald.

Portland Food Map has also compiled a list of dozens of restaurants, bars and markets that are offering takeout or delivery options. Look for it on portlandfoodmap.com.

Many local shops and retailers have moved their operations online. Visit their websites or social media pages for more information.

Some farms are offering curbside pickup or delivery services for their products. Learn more through the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

The Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce has started a campaign with more ideas to support local businesses. Learn more at payitforwardmaine.com.

Help students during distance learning.

Educate Maine has launched the 2,020 Books Challenge to help students during distance learning. People can buy gift cards to local bookstores, and Educate Maine will give those gift cards to teachers across the state. Those teachers will in turn use the gift cards to buy books for their students who do not have Internet access at home. For more information or to learn how to buy a gift card for the challenge, visit educatemaine.org/2020-books-challenge.

Support the arts.

The arts community will suffer while audiences stay home, but you can still support the work of performers and creators.

Creative Portland has announced the creation of the Portland Artist Relief Fund, with a goal of raising $50,000 to help 100 gig-economy artists and creatives in Portland with $500 stipends. Learn more and contribute at creativeportland.com/Artist_Relief_Fund.

The Portland Symphony Orchestra started the PSO Musicians Relief Fund to help its musicians who are losing work and income because the coronavirus. In addition to asking for donations, the orchestra offered to pay its musicians its principal service rate – or $187.52, the amount of money a principal member of the orchestra receives for a concert or rehearsal – when they contribute a video of a performance from home for a new online series. Learn more and support that effort at portlandsymphony.org.


Volunteering outside your home can be a tough call right now. That’s understood. Remember Rule No. 1: Stay healthy.

But, if you are able to leave your home and willing to have some contact with other people, here are some options to volunteer in person.

Organizations are screening for risk factors and symptoms of coronavirus, and people should follow the guidelines of state and federal officials to decide whether they can safely volunteer in the community.

Preble Street Resource Center, which serves more than 1,000 meals a day at its soup kitchen, is in need of volunteers. Interested people should sign up online before coming in for a shift, instead of just showing up at the kitchen. Learn more at preblestreet.org/volunteer. Questions can also be directed to [email protected]

Meals on Wheels is looking for people who can help deliver meals to seniors. People who are interested in helping can email [email protected] or leave a message at 396-6595.

If you would prefer to volunteer from home, you can also do that.

Catholic Charities of Maine is looking for volunteers for a telephone reassurance program, which pairs volunteers with seniors for a check-in call. Interested people can apply online at ccmaine.org/volunteer or call 523-1154 for more information.

Through These Doors runs a 24-hour helpline for questions and advice related to domestic violence: 1-800-537-6066. The organization will not be able to immediately train new volunteers for that service, but if you would like to be on a list of potential volunteers for the future, just call the helpline.

Crafters across Maine and the country are sewing facemasks for health care workers who are on the front lines of the coronavirus. While the state Center for Disease Control and Prevention is not recommending that providers use those donated masks as personal protective equipment at this time, some groups are still fulfilling orders for hospitals and other health care workers. Their intent is to create cloth shields that would go over N95 respirators in order to extend the life of those more effective masks. One of the largest groups to form is Sewing Masks for Maine, but you might find others popping up in your area.

Partners for World Health is also sharing surgical blue wrap and other materials to make masks for donations, and contact information for interested volunteers is available at facebook.com/PartnersForWorldHealth.

Donate blood.

A spokesperson said that more than 4,500 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled across the country because of coronavirus concerns as of March 19, resulting in about 150,000 fewer blood donations and causing concerns about the nation’s supply for transfusions.

Healthy people can schedule an appointment to give blood by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or activating the Blood Scheduling Skill for Amazon Alexa. The local organization is also sharing updated information about blood drives and the impact of coronavirus at facebook.com/MaineRedCross.

The Red Cross has implemented additional protocols to prevent the spread of disease, such as checking the temperature of staff and donors before they enter a blood drive.

Be vigilant.

Watch out for and report potential scams to the police. The Federal Trade Commission has tips on how to protect yourself and others from scammers, like how to check facts you hear and vet charitable organizations.

Do you know someone in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction? Make sure they can access meetings online, and offer them your support if you can.

Stay connected.

Many Maine news organizations, including the Portland Press Herald, have made their coronavirus coverage free to readers online. But this work comes at a cost, so subscribing to this newspaper or your local news outlet supports journalism and helps keep your community connected and informed. You can also buy a gift subscription for someone you know or donate to support our work. Learn more at pressherald.com/support.

And, oh yeah, wash your hands.

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