We're sharing the best ways to support those in your community—especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Woman in white knitted sweater holding wrapped gift
Credit: Getty / Skvalval

Everyday commitments to help those in your local community can make a world of difference. Whether you are looking to deliver meals, make charitable donations, or lend a hand wherever necessary, there is always space to contribute. The same can be said during the holiday season—especially in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic. "The holidays are a particularly busy time for many direct service organizations," says Natasha Bunzl, communications associate at God's Love We Deliver. "We try to make this season extra special for our clients who might experience heightened isolation or loneliness were it not for the joy that we deliver with meals, and smiles and hellos from volunteers and staff." To support those in your neighborhood and beyond, we asked for more insight from Bunzl on ways to contribute while staying safe during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Get involved in your local community.

First off, Bunzl recommends researching charitable groups that are active in your area. "Follow along with the organizations that help your community during this season," she suggests. "Soup kitchens, shelters, meal providers, and family service agencies all ramp up operations during the holidays to help vulnerable individuals prepare for the colder months and also find joy around the festivities." From there, you can join an organization to contribute—all while abiding by social distancing and health mandates, which include wearing a protective face mask, keeping six feet apart, and handling food with gloves.

Prepare food and help with delivery.

Helping to prepare food in particular is of high importance during the holidays—and helping campaigns like "Celebrate With a Plate" by funding meals or volunteering to package and deliver the food can help those who need it most. "For the holidays, we send each of our clients festive Thanksgiving meal with all the fixings and a winter feast around the December holidays," Bunzl adds. "Our clients tell us they look forward to these meals all year long. Not only is the menu celebratory, but we also send an additional meal on each of those days, so that they can share the holiday with a loved one."

Engage with causes remotely.

For those who are looking to participate from a remote location, sending holiday cards and decorating bags for meal deliveries can all be done from home. Bunzl also recommends engaging with organizations online. "[Individuals] should sign up for mailing lists and follow along with the charities that they love on social media so that they can learn about volunteer opportunities and campaign fundraisers," she says.

Make donations.

Lending a hand can also mean giving a donation—whether that be monetarily or by contributing material goods. First, be sure to assess how much you can give by noting what's left after you've paid all your bills, Stephanie McCullough, founder and CEO of Sofia Financial, says. From there, follow the guidelines of organizations with what they are seeking donation-wise and be sure to clean and check for any issues before making your contribution. "Before you donate, we encourage people to check for rust, bulging, or open items," Karen M. Pozna, director of communications and special events at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, says. Also wash, dry, and package any clothing according to the charity's instructions.

Spread the word.

On your own social media, you can also help spread the word on the organizations you are supporting and their missions. Like God's Love We Deliver, several organizations cook and deliver meals and provide essential products to underserved communities on Thanksgiving Day and other holidays. Keeping informed and letting others know can help more people join in, too. "You can always support us in the form of spreading awareness about medically tailored meals and nutrition and by donating to help [organizations] reach the thousands of individuals that home-deliver meals each year," adds Bunzl. For more information on ways to volunteer in your local community, visit volunteermatch.org, feedingamerica.org, and unitedway.org.

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