Volunteering in the Time of COVID-19

by Sarah Tibbitts

The pandemic has interrupted or changed so many aspects of a “normal” high school experience, from how students experience classes to school sports to social life. Unfortunately, one of the many activities that has been interrupted is student involvement in volunteering and community service. Due to the restrictions associated with the pandemic, it can be difficult to know how to give back to your community. However, growing healthcare disparities and economic challenges make community service even more essential than ever. Young, healthy people can do so much to serve their community (safely) during this time—plus it’s a great way to stay connected in an otherwise distant time and build your resume for college. Read on for some ideas!

  • Give blood. While COVID-19 is not a disease that has increased the need for blood, patients still need blood just as much as before—and many people have stopped donating due to the pandemic. Visit the Red Cross website to see local donation sites in your area. If you’re unable to give blood, you could volunteer to help organize a blood drive.

  • Volunteering at a food bank. The pandemic has impacted millions of people financially in addition to medically. More people than ever are in need of healthy, affordable food, and those who live in food deserts may be even less able to reach a grocery store without safe public transportation options. Sign up at your local food bank for a shift. Most food banks have an option to package food or to do direct distribution, based on your comfort level. If you don’t feel safe volunteering in-person, consider organizing a food drive in your community.

  • Park cleanups…or, if you’re lucky enough to live in a place with a beach, beach cleanups! This is an entirely outdoor activity that can take place by yourself and with no prior steps to organize, if that feels like a barrier for you. Parks, trails, and beaches are safer for animals—and always look more beautiful—sans trash. As a bonus, some places give money for cans and bottles you turn in!

  • Virtual tutoring. If you’re reading this article, you likely already benefit from virtual tutoring! Consider paying it forward—for free—with younger cousins or neighbors who may need help with their school subjects. Since most students are virtual during this period, having an older figure to give them advice may be just what they need!

  • Voter registration/Get Out The Vote. Although the 2020 Presidential election is over, crucial local elections are happening all the time! Candidates who would usually knock on doors are forced to campaign virtually due to COVID-19 and could use the help of young people making phone calls. Bonus: this could count for Gov hours if you’re a senior! In addition, new people are constantly turning 18 and need to be registered to vote.

  • Be My Eyes. An already existing service that connects blind or visually-impaired folks with volunteers for visual assistance over the phone. Check out www.bemyeyes.com to sign up for a shift.


Sarah Tibbitts, a 2020 graduate of The Ohio State University, currently works as a Social Justice Fellow at Stanford Hillel in Palo Alto, California. (Hence the “beach cleanup idea. Lucky!)