How you can help your community while social distancing

The shelter-in-place order has left downtown Waco empty, including the intersection at 7th and Washington. Brittney Matthews | Multimedia Editor

By Camille Rasor | Reporter

Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, almost every part of normal life has broken down.

According to the most recent data out of the Department of Labor, there were nearly 10 million unemployment insurance claims in the last two weeks of March. This is compared to the almost 500,000 claims reported in the first half of the month, which rounds out to a near 2,000% increase in claims from within just one month. Most of these claims were due to the impacts of COVID-19.

Needless to say, people are feeling out of control. With so many workers losing their jobs and nearly everyone’s daily lives impacted by the coronavirus, many people are looking for ways to regain some semblance of normalcy. With that in mind, here are a few ways that we can help our communities by both helping those in need and giving ourselves a sense of control again.

Donate to local food banks and charities

Throughout the country, food banks and homeless shelters are facing a sudden lack of volunteers as people stay home in accordance with social distancing guidelines. However, the work these charities do is perhaps more important than ever.

Mission Waco, a Waco area nonprofit, has been working to maintain their service to those in need. In a video posted on Mission Waco’s social media pages, John Calaway, Mission Waco’s executive director, said the organization halted after-school programs and other nonessential branches of their charity while continuing to operate their essential services such as their Jubilee Food Market and My Brother’s Keeper homeless shelter.

A big issue they are facing is finding a place for people in need to stay if they are symptomatic. In the video, Calaway said based on the guidance of medical professionals and the examples of larger cities like Dallas, the best path forward is to provide rooms in hotels to symptomatic people experiencing homelessness in order to stop the spread of the virus.

The Mission Waco staff reached out to over 25 hotels in the Waco area. Only one hotel was willing to donate a single room.

“We need your help to get the word out to individuals of hotels, owners, managers, operators that would be willing to block out rooms that Mission Waco is paying for to take care of our homeless brothers and sisters that are struggling on the streets,” Calaway said in the video.

Support local businesses from home

With unemployment numbers rising, there is no question that small businesses are facing the brunt of the national economic crash. For those who are able, deciding to make purchases through pickup or online orders is a way to support local shops and restaurants.

In Waco, small businesses adjusted their operations to continue their work in light of mandated shutdowns and social distancing guidelines. On March 16, Fabled Bookshop & Cafe launched an online store for their books and other merchandise. They closed their storefront four days later, and the online store is now their main mode of operation.

Additionally, several Waco restaurants have put together a service called Waco Delivers as a way for residents to support local restaurants and give back to essential businesses that are still continuing operations. The service allows people to order food and drinks for healthcare workers, grocery store employees, non-profit workers, etc. in an effort to support local businesses and give comfort to those who are working to keep the Waco community safe.

Support essential workers

There are various ways you can support those who are working to keep the most basic pieces of our societal infrastructure intact. Making masks, donating blood, ordering groceries for delivery rather than going into the store and calling doctors before you come in for any necessary medical visits are all ways that people can make communities safer.

Chelsea Thompson, the public affairs specialist for North Texas for H-E-B, said one way community members can support grocery store workers is to be patient with their employees as they try to meet the needs of families across Texas.

“We just ask for a little bit extra patience, because some of the social distancing that we are implementing in the store might make your shopping experience just a little bit longer than it normally would,” Thompson said.

Thompson said extra patience with the curbside and delivery order options at H-E-B stores would be appreciated. Because this is a physically safer option for families and workers, there has been more demand for these services. This has caused a lot of pickup and delivery time slots to be pushed further out than normal.

Stay home

The most important thing that those of us not working essential jobs can do is to stay home. According to the most recent guidelines out of the White House, any nonessential gatherings should be suspended so as to not facilitate the spread of the virus.

“Even if you are young, or otherwise healthy, you are at risk and your activities can increase the risk for others,” the guidelines say. “It is critical that you do your part to slow the spread of the coronavirus.”