“I wish I could do something.” Mired in long days of quarantine or stressed by the constant influx of new challenges facing our region, how many times has this thought crossed your mind? Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the desire to “do something” means more than making a difference in the community. It also captures how much we have come to miss the human connections in a world in which smiles are visible and handshakes and hugs are welcome. As we grapple with this new reality, there is something all of us can do that satisfies our need to make a difference and find human connection: volunteer.
“This is a generous, giving community,” says Tim Henkel, president and CEO of Spokane County United Way. “People are willing to step up when asked and when they know it is the right thing to do.”
When COVID-19 struck, the nonprofits and community organizations of our region did just that—stepping up to meet great needs with creativity. Through United Way’s virtual volunteer platform, Volunteer Spokane, local organizations have promoted over 1,200 pandemic-related volunteer opportunities. Whether you are virtually reading to children, packing meal boxes for seniors or submitting artwork to celebrate community heroes, it is possible to make a difference and find meaningful connections as a volunteer.
“If anything can come out of the pandemic, it is that the more you know people and interact with them, the easier it is to reach back out and connect at another point,” Henkel says.
Volunteering allows new relationships to be cultivated that alleviate quarantine-induced feelings of loneliness and isolation. It offers a window into the out-of-sight challenges facing our community, building the kind of unity and awareness we need to tackle the inequities COVID-19 has amplified and exposed in our communities. It drives the creation of new community networks that will spark innovative solutions to the challenges facing us today and into the future.
“Connecting is a natural part of who we are as humans,” Henkel says. “It is a part of our collective DNA to network and learn from others.”
We all have unique perspectives and the choice to leverage those perspectives for good. Volunteering gives our unique experiences the eyes, hands and feet to make a real difference. At a time when the social isolation of COVID-19 threatens to drive us all apart, volunteering has the power to bring us back together as we work toward the kind of future that can only be built together.
Make a difference in your community. Visit volunteerspokane.org.
Rachel Quick is an Innovia Foundation Fellow and senior at Whitworth University