Resilient Seattle

How You Can Help Seattle Weather the Pandemic

Where to donate money, offer time, or otherwise pitch in.

By Allison Williams August 4, 2020 Published in the July/August 2020 issue of Seattle Met

Fund a Major Fund

Not sure where to start? Two of the city’s biggest aid organizations make for a simple square one. United Way of King County launched a Community Relief Fund; donations can support food or rental assistance, or simply be directed to the greatest immediate need. Its volunteer opportunities database collects requests from various organizations, making it the ideal destination for anyone with more energy than direction (or cash). A collection taken up by Seattle Foundation gave out $10 million in grants in its first round alone, sending money to more than a hundred nonprofits around the city.

Hit the Streets

Home delivery reached a whole new peak during quarantine (see page 42), but even as things reopen, more vulnerable Seattleites still need the world brought to their doors. There are multiple ways to pitch in as a delivery person; Seattle Works, a volunteer nonprofit, directs drivers to groups performing food drop-offs in Chinatown–
International District and another that prioritizes people who are disabled, queer, or BIPOC. United Way partners with YMCA to drop off meals. V-Delivery matches seniors in six Seattle neighborhoods with locals who can make food bank pickups for those who can’t go themselves. 

Give of Yourself, Literally

The Northwest’s blood supply has been a real roller-coaster ride; first stocks plummeted when the virus hit the U.S., then rose when donors rushed to fill the void. But hospitals require a steady stream, and both Bloodworks Northwest and American Red Cross operate donation sites. Recovered from Covid-19? You can apply to donate plasma, which can be used to treat current patients of the virus.

Send Love Via Letter

Since the ’70s, Asian Counseling and Referral Service has linked services to the Asian American community. As part of their food delivery work during the Covid crisis, the organization includes handwritten letters to elders who may be isolated during self-quarantine. The program welcomes missives written in non-English languages, but all that’s required to participate is a desire to send comfort the old-fashioned way (though legible handwriting helps). Full Life Care does the same thing by phone call.

Release Your Inner Clean Freak

Like many local organizations, ROOTS Young Adult Shelter lost a large chunk of their volunteer staff during the pandemic—across the city, regular helpers needed to self-quarantine due to age vulnerabilities, take care of family, or otherwise drop normal volunteer shifts. ROOTS needs hands to take on regular cleaning shifts at their University District shelter; the one-day-a-week commitment is socially distant but sorely needed for the dozens of young people they shelter every night.

Fire Up the Sewing Machine

Anyone who knows a bobbin from a bias cut found the spotlight in 2020, and the city’s need for homemade face coverings isn’t abating soon. King County accepts handmade masks through its Regional Donations Connector, and El Centro de la Raza hopes to pass 5,000 of them to community members and can supply makers with materials if needed. Finally, Find the Masks built a clickable map of spots that could use donations, like dialysis centers and addiction facilities. Every stitch helps.

Find Your Niche 

Few events have ever impacted us like coronavirus; nearly every aspect of life has been affected, most by harm (though the toilet paper industry is probably doing okay). That means nearly every sector has launched funds that help its own, big and small, and all could use an infusion of cash. The Plate Fund has already raised more than $7 million for struggling restaurant workers in King County, while Seattle Tip Jar was launched by two ex-Zillow staffers. The 50-year-old ArtsFund created an emergency supply that has already sent money to 80 different Seattle nonprofits, while writer Ijeoma Oluo launched the grassroots Seattle Artist Relief Fund Amid Covid-19 that has raised over half a million dollars for the community she says has long nurtured her. Seattle Sounders FC Relief Fund helps businesses around CenturyLink, while SWOP USA supports local sex workers. Whatever your passion, there’s probably a fund for you. 

Break into a (Food) Bank 

As the quarantine progressed, local food banks were hit with a double whammy of increased food insecurity and decreased volunteer staff. Sign up to stock shelves, direct traffic, or greet customers at your closest outpost; Seattle Food Committee maps 29 across the city, and United Way lists ones that have specifically requested more hands on deck. 

Do That Thing You Do

“Everyone has the ability to aid the community,” says Liahann Bannerman, director of volunteer engagement for United Way of King County. “What is the skill you have that you can do remotely?” It could be grant writing, accounting, record keeping, or just videoing yourself reading books to send to children in need of distraction. Anything can become a webinar or virtual experience; maybe you could do mock interviews for high school seniors who are looking for jobs. Bannerman suggests inventorying your useful skills before contacting local groups, or even staying close to home: “Pay attention in your own neighborhood. Who haven’t you seen in a while? Whose grass has grown tall? Really look in on people.” 


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