Neighbors are in need, and there are lots of ways to give back and lend a helping hand as we navigate life in a pandemic.
“The community needs our services the most when the economy is down and times are tough,” says Ryan Aroney, president and CEO, United Way of Greater Lorain County. “There are disparities in Lorain County as it relates to health, education and financial stability, and those haven’t gone away because of Covid — and, in fact, in most cases those issues have been highlighted due to Covid, so our core work remains critically important.”
United Way has adapted its volunteer opportunities and created safe ways to participate.
Kits: Get a bookshelf building kit to assemble for preschools, or sign up for a blanket kit that will keep someone warm.
Collect, Source, Deliver: The United Way’s impact initiative involves collecting high-need items such as books, school supplies, work clothes and feminine hygiene products. Collections can be organized online and drop-off places can be set, or you can drop off at the United Way office, 642 Broadway Ave., Lorain. These items are organized at The Hub, where volunteers are safely spaced and can quality check the inventory. Although The Hub usually accommodates 15 to 20 people, now 4 or 5 volunteers work in the space to comply with public health guidance. United Way is offering more shifts. Finally, goods are delivered to those in need.
Prep Taxes: United Way partners with the Lorain County Free Tax Prep Coalition to train volunteers who help families and individuals complete tax returns. “Volunteers are trained remotely and IRS-certified at the basic or advanced level,” say Christine Matusik-Plas, community impact director. “You don’t need any special skills. If you can turn on a computer and talk to people, you can be trained.”
Last year, the coalition filed more than 1,500 tax returns resulting in $1.8 million in refunds. Filers saved a total $400,000 because they did not have to pay to prepare taxes.
211 First Call for Help: For those needing help who don’t know where to start, 2-1-1 is the “first call for help.” “The database is kept up to date in real-time and connects people in need to the sources that help,” Aroney says of the 24/7 hotline. By calling 2-1-1, you can link to essential services, from substance abuse assistance to care for a child or older adult.
Connect on Facebook: For the latest volunteer opportunities, check out United Way of Greater Lorain County’s Facebook page at facebook.com/uwloraincounty. “We share opportunities to get involved, resources and stories of empathy,” says Ashley Hampson, marketing and engagement director.