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How to Help Local Causes During the COVID-19 Outbreak

March 17, 2020
Hoosier Hills Food Bank - 11/19/18 File Photo
Hoosier Hills Food Bank (WTIU News File Photo)

As the situation surrounding the spread of COVID-19, or novel coronavirus, continues to develop, there are plenty of ways for people to keep themselves safe.

But while self-quarantining, hand washing and minimizing social interaction works on a personal level, there are a number of local organizations and causes in South Central Indiana in need of help to combat the crisis.

The Southeastern Chapter of the American Red Cross’s Indiana Region will continue to offer blood and relief services throughout the pandemic. But Donna Colon, the executive director for the chapter, said the organization needs blood donations now more than ever.

According to Colon, the American Red Cross supplies roughly 45 percent of the country’s blood reserves.

“We don’t want to see another national crisis on top of the coronavirus, so we are trying to make it clear that it is critical for those that are healthy and can donate blood to please donate,” Colon said.

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed the American Red Cross to cancel over 2,700 blood drives across the country since March 13, leading to about 86,000 fewer donations than expected.

Colon encouraged those who are healthy and able to donate blood or platelets to make an appointment with their local donation center; doing so, rather than showing up unannounced, will reduce the number of people waiting together to donate.

“Car accidents will still happen. People will still have cancer and need life-saving blood. People will still have surgeries,” Colon said. “This is something that’s critical for us and critical for our nation.”

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At a time when store shelves are being cleared out, easy access to food and supplies can be hard to come by. And local food banks are feeling the strain.

Amanda Nickey, president and CEO of Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, told Indiana Public Media that the outbreak has pushed them to operate with only staff and a small group of interns. While they’re continuing to distribute boxes of food in their truck bay, they’re required to re-evaluate from day to day.

Nickey said the organization is always in need of food and boxes for packaging.

The pandemic forced Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard to cancel its largest fundraiser of the year, so monetary donations are needed as well.

Hoosier Hills Food Bank Executive Director and CEO Julio Alonso said the coronavirus outbreak has only added to the need for accessible food.

“With people out of work and school, the need is only going to increase,” he said.

Alonso said that while government support will continue, federal funding only represents about 44 percent of the food Hoosier Hills distributes.

“Prepared food rescue and food drives are no longer really options for us,” Alonso said. “We anticipate that our retail donations will also begin to slow. We’re working to build up a supply to supplement the federal commodities.”

Alonso said Hoosier Hills has moved to a pre-bagged, drive-up model for distribution. While they’re still accepting food donations, he said the best way to support Hoosier Hills is through monetary donations.

For people experiencing homelessness, violence or addiction, local shelters are also doing all they can to halt the spread of coronavirus while continuing to offer crucial services.

Middle Way House in Bloomington is continuing to offer its legal services, housing and crisis line, according to Outreach Communications Coordinator Amalia Shifriss. The only exception is support groups, which the organization is looking at ways of holding virtually.

Other events and trainings have been canceled, including Middle Way House’s spring luncheon, where the group makes some of its essential funding.

Shifriss said Middle Way House is no longer accepting material donations, save for unopened over-the-counter meds, packaged food and hand sanitizer. Instead, they’re encouraging people to donate items from their Amazon wish list, as well as money. 

These are just a handful of shelters and organizations in South Central Indiana that need donations and help from volunteers during the coronavirus outbreak. You can use resources like the Homeless Shelter Directory or Feeding America food bank locator to find groups in need in your area.