How to pitch in during a pandemic

Our current situation is very frustrating: We’re facing a health and economic crisis, but if you’re not a health care or other essential worker, it feels like there isn’t much you can do about it.

We’re all doing our part by staying inside and social distancing to reduce transmission of COVID-19, of course. But many of our friends, family members and neighbors have lost work, some are sick and many just need help getting through. 

How can we help those people if we aren’t supposed to leave our houses?

It turns out there are some things you can do to help out, while keeping a safe distance from others. The site mainehelps.org, put together by Gov. Janet Mills’ office, has some suggestions:

Many local nonprofits are stepping up to provide help during this time of need. One great way to help out is to donate to keep those organizations going. A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned the United Way of Eastern Maine, which is helping spearhead Maine’s response to COVID-19. You can donate to them at bit.ly/EMCOVID19Fund, by texting EMCOVID19Fund to 41444, or by sending a check to United Way of Eastern Maine, 700 Main St., Ste. 1, Bangor, ME 04401.

The Maine Community Foundation has established a fund to help nonprofits responding to COVID-19 throughout the state. To donate to this fund, visit mainecf.org or send a check to Maine Community Foundation, 245 Main St., Ellsworth, ME 04605. Checks should be made out to the Maine Community Foundation with “COVID-19 Fund” on the memo line.

Another great organization to support is the Good Shepard Food Bank, which supplies a network of food pantries and agencies across the state to keep Mainers fed. These organizations are under a lot of pressure right now, and any support you can give is appreciated. Support the Good Shepherd Food Bank or host a virtual food drive in your community at gsfb.org/mainecovid. You may also send a check to Good Shepard Food Bank, 11 Penobscot Meadow Drive, Hampden, ME 04444.

Even with social distancing and the governor’s “Stay Healthy at Home” order, there are some ways to volunteer your time. Maine Ready, a site that helps connect Mainers with volunteer opportunities in their communities, was created by Maine Emergency Management Agency, Maine CDC-Public Health Emergency Preparedness, and Volunteer Maine — the state’s service commission. It lists ongoing volunteer needs for anyone looking for an opportunity to help out. Check it out at MaineReady.org.

Another great way to help out is to donate blood. The COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in a shortage of blood, as it has made blood drives difficult to hold. The Red Cross is still accepting blood donations by individual appointments, using necessary precautions to keep donors and workers safe. Sign up for an appointment at redcrossblood.org, or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.

Many local businesses need our help during this time. You can support them by using curbside pickup and delivery options when they’re available, or by buying gift cards to use when they open back up.

You can also check out Pay it Forward, a statewide initiative to support local businesses and organizations through an ever-growing library of ideas, tools and resources. Visit payitforwardmaine.com for information. 

These businesses are the backbone of our economies and communities, and it’s important to do what we can to support them. 

As a reminder, if you feel symptoms such as cough, fever or fatigue, and think you might have COVID-19, please call your primary care provider or whatever health care facility you normally use. It’s important that folks don’t just show up unexpected, as that can further spread the disease.

For any questions about COVID-19 and Maine’s response, you can call 211, text your zip code to 898-211 or email info@211maine.org. You can also visit mainesenate.org/covid-19 to stay up to date on the state’s response to COVID-19.

If you need help and aren’t sure where to turn, I am happy to help. You can reach my office at 207-287-1515 or send me an email at james.dill@legislature.maine.gov. Remember, I work for you.

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