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

First, stay at home and keep your distance.

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 so they can limit their shopping and other activities.

Donate goods or money.


Food pantries, shelters for homeless people and victims of domestic violence, animal shelters and other aid organizations have struggled to get and pay for 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:

The state has set up a website that directs Mainers to a variety of efforts and programs that are supporting nonprofit organizations, health care providers and local businesses.  Visit the “Maine Helps” page on the governor’s website.

The COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund at the Maine Community Foundation is supporting the work of nonprofits on the front lines of the response to coronavirus, such as 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 a similar relief fund and is accepting grant applications from organizations. Money is being 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, the largest hunger relief organization in Maine, has seen increased demand and 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, another organization that’s working to end hunger in Maine, has provided bags of staples and fresh produce  at school meal distribution sites. Learn more about their efforts on their Facebook page or make a donation at mainelockerproject.org.

Preble Street Resource Center in Portland operates a range of programs for people experiencing homelessness, hunger and poverty. Its soup kitchen is now providing meals to multiple shelters, and it is operating a daily food pantry and a temporary homeless shelter at the University of Southern Maine to allow for more distancing to protect that vulnerable population.  The organization is seeking donations to pay for food, staffing, equipment and overhead costs. Learn more at preblestreet.org/covid.

The Maine Association of Nonprofits has a list of food pantries around the state that rely on donations. Read more on the association’s website.

Through These Doors is a domestic-violence resource center that serves Cumberland County. Donations 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 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.


The Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland is accepting donations at arlgp.org. The Animal Welfare Society in Kennebunk has a wishlist on its website.

Support local businesses and restaurants.

Small businesses such as restaurants and small retailers are struggling to stay open and provide incomes for their workers.

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.

Creative Portland created the Portland Artist Relief Fund 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. Learn more and support that effort at portlandsymphony.org.


Volunteering outside your home can be a tough call. 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 needs volunteers to help prepare meals at its soup kitchen and food pantry. Interested people should sign up online before coming in for a shift, instead of just showing up at the kitchen. Questions can also be directed to volunteer@preblestreet.org.

Meals on Wheels is looking for people who can help deliver meals to seniors. People who are interested in helping can email volunteer@smaaa.org 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.

Crafters across Maine and the country are sewing facemasks and donating them to health care workers or others who work in public settings. While the state Center for Disease Control and Prevention is not recommending that medical providers rely on donated masks as personal protective equipment, some health care organizations have accepted them to be used on non medical settings or to wear over medical respirators 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 mobilizing volunteers to sew masks, along with other initiatives. Contact information for interested volunteers is available at facebook.com/PartnersForWorldHealth.

Donate blood.

The Red Cross continues to be in need of more blood donations. 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.


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.

Got other ideas? Email mgray@pressherald.com with suggestions for this list, and we will keep adding to it.

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