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Here's How You Can Help or Volunteer in Kansas During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Patrick Dugan's Coffee House in Garden City is no longer allowing public seating and instead is offering curbside services as businesses grapple to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Corinne Boyer, Kansas News Service)

by Corinne Boyer

GARDEN CITY, Kansas  As news of COVID-19 unfolds daily, so does the devastation caused by the virus. Many have also found a growing desire to help people hit hardest by the many ripple effects.

Kansas schools have closed for the remainder of the academic year. Small businesses are trying to cut their losses by offering curbside services and fulfilling orders online. Restaurants that didn’t deliver before are learning quickly that they must. Service industry workers, and many others, find themselves stuck at home, unable to earn a living. 

What can you do to help? Here are some ideas: 

  • Call your neighbors. 

Zach Ahrens with Midland Care Connection, which operates Meals on Wheels in Shawnee, Jefferson and Douglas counties, said calling a neighbor is a start. “One of the concerns I have is the social isolation,” Ahrens said. 

  • Donate blood. 

Check the Red Cross’s website to search for blood drives near you. Call the organization hosting the blood drive. Regular hours or other details may have changed. Contact local churches because they often host blood drives. 

  •  Donate to food delivery services for the poor and the elderly or call to volunteer

Even if the nonprofit isn’t able to use new volunteers right away, Ahrens said volunteers are a constant need. “In our minds, this isn’t a sprint, this is a marathon,” Ahrens said. “The need will continue to grow as this progresses.” Call 785-232-2044 to donate or volunteer. Donations to Meals on Wheels can be made online at Midland Care Connection’s website.

  • Volunteer or donate to food banks such as Harvesters.

The food bank based in Topeka and Kansas City serves 26 counties in Kansas and Missouri. Communications Manager Gene Hallinan said Harvesters needs donations. “Because of the pandemic, Harvesters is not receiving as much donated food and we're seeing a shortage of volunteers who sort and pack the donated food,” he said. For students who want to earn community service hours, the nonprofit needs handmade greeting cards to go in senior food boxes. 

  • Call 211. 

A call to 211 connects you to United Way — where hundreds of Kansas nonprofits are registered. If you’re able to volunteer from home, but aren’t sure how, call 211. Gayle Ausmus, director of United Way of Dodge City, said anyone needing assistance can call. “Call 211 if you are in need of food or if you can’t leave your house,” she said. If you are able to donate, find your local United Way chapter online or call. “We don’t want anybody to go hungry,” Ausmus said. “We don’t want anyone to be without shelter.” 

  • Foster or adopt a pet. 

The Finney County Humane Society is closed to the public. If the shelter reaches capacity, it will begin to euthanize animals. Right now, temporary pet care — fostering a cat or dog in your home — is one of the shelter’s greatest needs. Anyone wanting to adopt can call the shelter to make an appointment. The shelter anticipates that income loss will affect pet owners, so it’s asking for pet food donations to help people keep their pets.

  • Shop at local businesses online.

Some small businesses may not have an online presence, but buying a gift card over the phone or ordering items or food for pickup can help them stay afloat. Haleigh Kells is an owner of the Corner on Main, a gift boutique in Garden City. She said the staff can take orders and payments over the phone, send photos of merchandise to customers and ship purchases. “Gift cards are helpful,” Kells said. “Small businesses especially are really worried about how this is going to affect (them) and how they are going to be able to make it without their local customers.” 

Downtown Lawrence is updating its Facebook page with businesses offering curbside pickup.

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Corinne Boyer covers western Kansas for High Plains Public Radio and the Kansas News Service. Follow her on Twitter @Corinne_Boyer .

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio - focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org. 

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