Ways to Volunteer in your Community
Hey! We appreciate you existing and doing your best, whatever that means right now. We are so glad that you are here.
A number of us here at WABA have been doing what we can to help our neighbors out, and we wanted to share a few ways to get involved if you have the capacity and interest.
We hear from our network of community organizations and mutual aid groups that their primary need is for dependable, problem-solving people. We’ve worked with many of you, and we know you’re awesome. Event after event, WABA volunteers have blown us away with your initiative, creativity, and ability to self-delegate when needed. Because of this, we think you could help!
We think this is important! Volunteer three times in your community for a WABA membership. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading “Community Support Membership” and a short list of what you did.
Regional Volunteer Efforts
The pandemic looks different in different communities across our region. It has brought longstanding inequities into stark relief: deaths from the disease are disproportionately African American, Latinx and Indigenous residents. Stay-at-Home orders have highlighted the unequal access to basic services—grocery stores, parks, public transit, internet—along race, gender and socio-economic lines. If you are able to travel safely outside of your neighborhood, these groups could use your help:
- Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area
- So What Else? Is looking for regular volunteer drivers
- Women Who Care Ministries is looking for food packing volunteers
- And many more volunteer roles at the Montgomery County Volunteer portal.
District of Columbia
- Martha’s Table is looking for volunteers for food packing and would love any donations of unopened PPE and cleaning supplies.
- Every DC Ward is organized within DC Mutual Aid, join your neighbors through ward signup. All links can be found here. Grocery delivery and mask productions are two major needs.
- La ColectiVA is looking for food donations and some roles for grocery delivery (you must prioritize safety and privacy of many undocumented recipients).
- SURJNoVa is part of mutual aid coordination and also have connections to La ColectiVA, the Mayan League and NASEK. The coalition is also doing work in Fairfax.
- Arlington Magazine has a great compilation of community efforts (including masks) here.
- Many volunteer roles through the Alexandria Volunteer portal
- Food for Others is looking for specific food donations
Self-Directed and Informal Things You Can Do
- Reach out to loved ones and friends, mail postcards, send emails, give them a ring! People need human interaction and it can feel awkward to say hey, I’m kinda lonely right now. Bonus: There are a variety of pen pal and mailing opportunities, including this senior home in Rockville.
- Watch your local neighborhood listservs for requests or post your own offer. Many existing neighborhood groups have requests and offers, including requests from groups and service agencies. Supply lines are disrupted right now and different routines have shifted what people use. Crayons, board games, bingeable romance books, food, clothes – you might have something to gift or loan.
TIP: Be proactive, specific, and actionable—
One great model for support is making proactive offers based on efforts others are doing. “I saw you are starting some community meals, I have too much kale in my garden, would you like me to harvest some and walk it over tonight?” Concrete offers with details and an easy option to say “no thanks” reduces decision fatigue and require less emotional labor.
- Check in with your neighbors. Going to the grocery store and have extra cargo space? Consider asking if anyone needs anything. There are 10 million immunocompromised people in the United States and 26% of US residents are disabled so it is quite likely you know someone who does not want to risk an errand trip right now. (Note: not everyone will be comfortable sharing why they don’t want to risk going out. That’s ok.)
- Organize with your neighbors. Consider starting a neighborhood pod to support and coordinate with each other. It could be everyone on your block or apartment building. Direct Services agencies and nonprofits are overwhelmed – informal neighbor to neighbor mutual aid is one way to build community and spread work from formal networks.
- Sew masks. Especially if you have the supplies (sewing machine, cotton quilting fabric, thread, and a few other things), this is a great way to help. The need for them extends far beyond healthcare facilities—people who work in other essential businesses, frontline food support, immunocompromised people. Each fabric mask takes ~30 min and the need is never-ending. (Note: if you have capacity and you are receiving/buying masks, pay a fair price for them! Sewing takes skill & time, and materials are not free).
- Listen, read, and be patient. Volunteer management takes work! A lot of organizations have been flooded by offers to help and requests for support. Sorting, connecting and responding takes time. Many groups and organizations have clear requests they have posted on social media, newsletters and/or their websites. Help them by researching what they’ve already communicated before sending a general email about volunteering.
Giving money is good too!
Your local food bank, the Capital Area Food Bank, local fundraisers for service industry workers, local businesses, very large tips on deliveries, local restaurant fundraisers for donated meals and individual people in your networks – all excellent options. Here are some frontline organizations doing amazing work:
- Arlington Food Assistance Center
- Arlington Thrive
- Black Lives Matter DC
- Black Swan Academy
- Calvary Women’s Services
- Capital Area Food Bank
- Collective Action for Safe Spaces
- Greater DC Diaper Bank
- Manna Food Center
- Many Languages One Voice
- Martha’s Table
- Miriam’s Kitchen
- Nourish Now
- N Street Village
What is Mutual Aid?
Mutual Aid is based on the principle and a long history of practice that everyone has something to give and receive, and that we all must work together for long-term structural change so that everyone can thrive. It is work that values the well-being and dignity of everyone. Many practitioners use the phrase “Solidarity, not charity” to describe it. Learn more about the history and practice of mutual aid in this webinar organized by the Highlander Center. If you are new to this framework, do a lot of listening and be mindful of how you take up space in conversations.
We appreciate you existing and doing your best, whatever that means right now. We are so glad that you are here.