by Bethel Community Services Foundation Staff
Many of us are at home, heeding the instructions given by national, state and city leaders. Others are at work in fields deemed critical infrastructure- health care, grocery stores, banking, law enforcement, utilities, and many other fields upon which we rely, even at a time when many aspects of daily life have slowed down or stopped altogether.
We know that our neighbors, service organizations, educational institutions, and businesses are struggling- and the majority of us are wondering how we can help- how we can do the most good. We are connected (even when maintaining physical distance), we are resilient, and we are thinking of each other.
Here is some advice from Bethel Community Services Foundation on some ways you can help:
1. Pick the nonprofit of your choice that is providing critical services and, if you are able, send them a financial contribution. Bethel Winter House Shelter, Tundra Women’s Coalition, Emmonak Women’s Shelter, KYUK and ONC Senior Services are examples.
Any organization that provides housing and homeless-related services, shelter, medical services, communications and food assistance is likely to need your support. They are stretching to meet community needs while also developing and implementing their COVID-19 staffing and stakeholder response plans during this time of crisis.
2. Provide a gift to the YK Delta COVID-19 Response Fund at BCSF. This fund was created to provide urgent funding for the most immediate needs that are resulting from COVID-19. It is a good fit for donors who want to make a financial gift to a COVID-19 relief effort but a) are not sure which local group to choose or b) want the funds to be directed to a range of efforts. BCSF is matching the first $5,000 in individual contributions.
This fund will provide support for a number of specific COVID-19 needs in the YK Delta and will be open to nonprofits and community service providers. Prioritization will be given to emergency shelters, homeless prevention efforts (preventing evictions through rent and mortgage assistance and utilities assistance), food security, support for critical communications and other areas of most immediate need resulting from COVID-19 as identified by these responding groups.
Gifts to the fund can be made at bcsfoundation.org- click on the YK Delta COVID-19 Response Fund, via our BCSF Facebook Fundraiser, mailed to PO Box 2189 Bethel AK 99559, or over the phone at 907-543-1812.
3. Remember groups whose budgets have been devastated by cancellation of fundraising events, or who are experiencing an increase in requests by people who have suddenly lost income. Bethel Friends of Canines is an example of such a group that relies upon pancake breakfast fundraisers and other events to raise money- and a group which will likely experience more requests for helping with pet spays/neuters or help with emergency pet care costs from people who are now experiencing financial uncertainty.
Financial donations are critical; volunteering is also important.
4. YKHC is implementing a plan for community members to volunteer to make masks. BCSF is partnering to distribute mask kits from YKHC to volunteers who wish to help sew masks. The kits include medical-grade material and everything except thread, including instructions. Mask kits are available to pick up at our office at 1795 Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday – Friday. Please return completed masks to BCSF.
5. Bethel Friends of Canines needs foster homes for rescued dogs and cats- and with so many people spending their days at home, now is a great time to save an animal or volunteer to walk dogs in the pound or at the BFK9 kennel.
6. Tundra Women’s Coalition is expanding its pool of relief advocates in order to ensure that their doors stay open if their existing staff becomes ill or exposed to the virus (while paid, they need people to sign up and be trained).
7. Bethel Winter House is accepting donations of food for lunches served to homeless guests and for evening nightly shelter meals.
8. Call on elders, people with underlying health conditions and quarantined people who cannot leave their homes, grocery shop for others in this situation, check with ONC Senior Services about their needs, and keep an eye on various community Facebook pages where people ask for and offer to help.
9. Virtual volunteerism- ask your favorite organization what more you can do to help them from your home. Maybe there’s a tech-based task, or help spreading their messages through your social media channels, or a Do-It-Yourself project they’ve just been waiting for someone to offer to do.
It’s not just money and time; our providers also need stuff.
Have a fully-stocked closet, shop or bathroom cabinet? For anyone who happened to have a full inventory of sanitizing wipes, paper towels, cleaning supplies, N-95 masks, other styles/types of masks, gloves, thermometers or hand sanitizer, now is a critical time to share. TWC, the Winter House Shelter and Emmonak Women’s Shelter- as well as many of our other responding organizations- are in need of many of these materials.
In Bethel, the Lions Club offers a Food Pantry service to respond to individual food needs and space for a monthly Food Bank distribution. At this time, Lions Club International has suspended activity during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Susan Taylor is willing to pick up food or snack donations (using an appropriate social distancing plan) and ensure they get to an organization or group that can utilize them. Susan can be reached at 545-7524.
ONC Senior Services is also accepting donations of subsistence foods and vegetables for their Meals-on-Wheels program which delivers lunches to elders. Call ONC at 543-2608 and ask for Wilson Green to learn more about how to make a donation of food that they can use.
Finally, regardless of our financial, time or pantry resources, we can all offer this: constant support, encouragement and respect to all of the people in our region who are working in health care and as emergency responders and who are deemed essential employees working in critical infrastructure. These role models are implementing plans to keep as many of us as healthy as possible and ensuring we receive essential services during the pandemic. They continue to report to work despite the risk and deserve our gratitude.