Want to help front-line heroes in the coronavirus fight? Here are 3 ways you can while keeping your distance


Elizabeth Brown is president and CEO of the Community Foundation Sonoma County.

As the news about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic evolves, most of us are feeling a sense of unprecedented unease.

We worry about health and finances, starting with our own family and then spanning out to our community, country, and the rest of the globe. At the same time, we tap into our innate generosity, wondering how we can help, even as we are social distancing and isolating.

To find hope in times of disaster, especially the version we know all too well, we look to the heroes that arrive in the form of first responders - the firefighters and pilots and paramedics. They come in force during wildfires, from around the county as well as the region and country. These heroes give us hope - bringing with them the promise that things will be okay.

While there are no airplanes in the sky to drop fire retardants, or battalions of firefighters coming from across the country like they did when the Kincade Fire struck, heroes and helpers are out in force today.

They are our community's doctors, nurses and front-line hospital staff. They are clinicians at our local community health centers. They are nonprofit staff coordinating food deliveries to seniors. They are case workers helping people file for unemployment and emergency CalFresh benefits. They are volunteers making calls to check in on people who are isolated. They are the donors who make this work possible.

They may not be showcased in photo spreads on the front page, but these helpers are our local heroes. And right now, they are in need of our help.

Today, even while you may still be asking, “What's next?” I encourage you to also ask, “What can I do to help?”

The first thing you can do is to heed the advice and warnings of our public health officials. Right now, this is a profound act of service. In a community used to “showing up,” it can feel challenging to put that same energy into “staying put,” but this is required so that those providing essential services can do so.

We know that the recovery from this crisis will be uneven. Once again, we will see a “tale of two” emerge.

For those with access to stable housing, to steady work, to savings, and to affordable medical care, the impacts of this disaster will be lessened.

But for those who have lost work, who are undocumented, who are living on fixed incomes, and who are homeless, our community will need to rally to support them in recovering from the impacts of this new disaster.

Local nonprofit organizations already provide a vitally needed safety net for our most vulnerable community members. Today, these organizations are facing an unprecedented influx of new clients seeking access to food, shelter and financial support.

Without a matching influx of donations and with rising costs, organizations are struggling to meet those needs. This is a moment for us to tap into our generosity.

At Community Foundation Sonoma County, we are proud that on behalf of our generous donors, we've made $1.3 million in grants since the start of the pandemic. These grants have gone directly to the nonprofit organizations working on the front lines of the crisis. To food banks and food pantries, to organizations offering rental assistance to help keep people in their homes. To regional health clinics offering care to those who need it. And to support members of our undocumented community facing economic uncertainty with little access to aid programs.

It is hard to overstate the current and growing economic impact on nonprofits and the vulnerable communities they serve.

As you consider how you too can help, we encourage you to think about giving in three ways:

Give financial support

If you are able to donate funds now, consider giving directly to the organizations you know and love.

Our Sonoma County Resilience Fund (sonomacf.org/resilience) is raising funds for the long-term recovery. Some of you will receive a check from the federal stimulus package but may still be employed. Consider donating those funds to our fund or directly to a nonprofit.

Give your time

Many front-line nonprofit organizations are in urgent need of volunteers who can help with food distributions, and more. The Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership (formerly the Volunteer Center) has an online directory of current volunteer needs available at sonoma.cvnl.org.

Give kindness

At the community foundation, we are challenging each other to practice “extreme kindness.” During a time of great anxiety, loneliness, and loss, we can remember that we are all alone - together.

We can assume we are each doing our best under very trying circumstances. We can be relentless in offering our gratitude. We can call someone who is lonely. We can also ask for help and remember to be kind not just to others, but to ourselves.


Elizabeth Brown is president and CEO of the Community Foundation Sonoma County.

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