In times of past crisis, we’ve always risen to the challenge as a nation: growing victory gardens during WWII, raising flags after 9/11, stacking sandbags during floods, sending supplies after Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.

We are again facing such a crisis, and while we worry about our own futures, we must not forget the people in our community who are already struggling with the financial effects of COVID-19.

A few weeks ago, United Way of Northwest Louisiana shared 5 United Way Programs to Help You Amid COVID-19. This week we wanted to share five things you can do to fight in the face of COVID-19.

As we move into social distancing and self-quarantine, it’s natural to feel isolated. Staying away from other people, though necessary, doesn’t fulfill our need to take action, to do something in the face of this crisis.

Fortunately, even in isolation, you can help the most vulnerable among us. We ask you now to step up, to embody the community spirit manifest in this country for more than two centuries.
Here are five things you can do to fight in the face of COVID-19:

Donate to the UNITED NWLA Fund. Workers are losing wages and tips due to event cancellations and business closures. Food pantries and other community resources are inundated with individuals needing help. United Way started the United NWLA Fund by allocating $10,000 to address both the short and long-term needs of those affected by COVID-19, but we need your help, too! The fund is donation-driven and will be used to serve ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, and Employed) community members in our ten-parish region.

Direct people to 211. Louisiana 211 is working on the front lines of the pandemic. Expert 211 specialists provide real-time information on social services and other resources to those in need. If you know someone who is struggling, or just looking for a source of reliable information, tell them to dial 211 or text LACOVID to 898-211.

Spare something for the food pantries. As stores run out of bulk food and toilet paper, food pantries are struggling to fill their shelves, especially as more people are coming in for help. Consider donating what you can spare, especially non-perishable food and toiletry items.
Volunteer from home. Did you know that loneliness is as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day? Even during isolation, modern technology allows us to stay connected. Visit https://unitedwaynwla.org/volunteer-form/ to sign up as a United Way Virtual Volunteer Reader. Volunteers will record themselves reading a children’s book, and we will post it on our social media and websites to put a smile on a child’s face.

Take care of your mental health. If you’re stuck at home, keep busy with hobbies, try out arts and crafts, pick up an old musical instrument, organize family game nights, and step outside for fresh air and exercise. You can’t take care of others unless you take care of yourself.

Even in these uncertain times, no one is powerless to make a difference. Small acts, taken together across the country, can change the course of the pandemic, bolster those facing economic challenges, and protect the most vulnerable.