A woman smiles from a rooftop with the Washington Monument in the background

Giving Back During COVID-19: Finding Solace in Volunteering

By Taylor Woodard

COVID-19 has shaken our world, leaving thousands struggling with anxiety and stress. On a smaller scale, I know what those emotions feel like. Growing up with a disability, I encountered a lot of anxiety: Will I ever live independently? What will my employment options look like? These fears nearly overwhelmed me.

Fortunately, I discovered a way to lessen the anxiety swirling in my head. In my family, helping others was a priority. My mom regularly cooked dinner for a neighbor recovering from surgery. On any given week, we were collecting cans for yet another food drive. I thought the only beneficiary was the recipient. Then I started implementing my own service projects, and I saw an added beneficiary: myself.

In high school, I partnered with local businesses to pack shoeboxes of toys and socks for children. The money from the bake sales I administered helped a family purchase a goat and become self-sufficient. In college, I led a campaign giving 5,000 books to local foster children. Focusing on others was like a balm for my stress—allowing me to both keep perspective on my own life as well as temporarily shelve my own worries.

With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on our health, our jobs, and our future, many are facing relentless anxiety. But there is hope. Research has shown us how: volunteering. Most importantly, volunteering helps relieve the anxiety we are all feeling. Other benefits are combatting depression, keeping us mentally alert, and giving a sense of purpose.

Here are ways to help right now while helping yourself stay mentally well.  

  1. Pack boxes at a food pantry
  2. Deliver groceries to an older adult
  3. Give blood
  4. Organize a mutual-aid network 
  5. Volunteer virtually

The Corporation for National and Community Service also offers additional ideas.

How are you helping your community during this time?