Michael Fu donates masks to local hospitals as the Covid-19 pandemic continues. Photo: Michael Fu

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it’s easy to get stuck and feel helpless in this seemingly bleak situation. Schools have closed across the country, the economy is in decline and there has been a mandatory shelter in place order in Atlanta, which most are still observing despite Gov. Kemp’s recent order loosening restrictions.

In the midst of this chaos, it’s understandable to think of ourselves. However, especially in these difficult times, there is much that individuals can do to help others.

Atlanta has a large number of people affected by homelessness, around 4,000 people in the city, and this number isn’t dropping during the pandemic. Already, 33.8 million people have filed for unemployment in the country, which will inevitably raise the number of people affected by homelessness. Those without homes are at an even greater risk, as they often do not have the ability to access things like masks, hand sanitizer or even a place to wash their hands.

While sheltering in place, it may seem impossible to help. However, many organizations have accommodated. One such organization is Love Beyond Walls, a nonprofit that has been installing portable hand washing stations around Atlanta. Although they have limited their volunteering services, they are still accepting donations.

This is an easy way to directly help people affected by homelessness in one’s own community, straight from one’s home. If donating money seems too indirect, organizations like Atlanta Mission have listed hand sanitizer, hand soap, disinfectant wipes and tissues as their most needed items.

Due to the pandemic, many restaurants remain closed and even those offering takeout are barely surviving. This means that thousands of people working in the food service industry have been cut off from their source of income.

“Tip an Atlanta Server” is an organization that allows you to tip a local service industry worker through Venmo or Cash App every time you have a drink or meal. Another way to support restaurants is by ordering takeout or purchasing gift cards; many restaurants still offer drive throughs.

The Giving Kitchen also provides financial relief to food service workers who are experiencing hardship. They have pledged to support anyone in the industry who is under quarantine or has been diagnosed with coronavirus. To help, it’s as easy as a donation online.

ATL Family Meal is asking for financial donations and volunteer drivers. It is a group of volunteers, service workers and nonprofit workers who help feed Atlanta hospital workers during the pandemic.

Another group seriously affected by COVID-19 is adults over age 60, who are at higher risk of contracting the virus. This makes helping them even more important.

“Meals on Wheels” is an organization that works to deliver food to older people who are unable to obtain it. While Pace Academy recently held a food drive, Meals on Wheels’ pantry is still being emptied at a very high rate. One of the best things you can do is donate food or money to Meals On Wheels to make sure that older people stay healthy and safe.

Atlanta startup “Goodr” has partnered with Atlanta Public Schools to provide meals to children while schools are closed. They are looking for volunteers and are distributing meals at five locations throughout Atlanta.

Pace students have already begun to get involved in helping the community. Take Michael Fu, a junior whose parents are first generation immigrants to the U.S. Most of Fu’s family and his parents’ college friends live in China, and they shipped around 500 masks to Fu’s family in Atlanta. He later reached out to family friends and his mother’s alumni group to ask for mask donations. Fu ended up collecting a total of 6,000 masks, and helped direct and donate them to local hospitals.

Freshman Katie Janko led an effort through Pace recently to raise money for Feed the Frontlines, an organization that collects money to buy meals from restaurants for hospital workers.

Although much of helping the community under a pandemic involves helping from home, this can still be difficult for those struggling themselves. If you cannot donate or volunteer – or even if you can – the most effective way to help the community is to stay home and maintain social distance. Utilize drive throughs, wash your hands and don’t hoard items that are in high demand – that can hurt the community the most.

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