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Many Mainers are, thankfully, staying home to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of coronavirus in the state so that our healthcare system can take care of the people who become sick.
This social distancing has left many people feeling uncomfortably isolated from their communities. Some surely are wondering what they can do to help.
[Our COVID-19 tracker contains the most recent information on Maine cases by county]
A new Maine website offers lots of answers.
Maine Helps, which is part of Gov. Janet Mills’ office, is a clearinghouse of ideas and entities that could use support. The website is a work in progress, so information about different needs will be added as it becomes available and relevant.
“Maine people are helpers, and they are everywhere,” Mills said in a statement on the new webpage. “They are our doctors, nurses, EMS, firefighters, police officers, grocery store clerks, gas station attendants, child care workers, government employees.
“They are you, they are your neighbor, they are your loved ones.”
One of the most direct ways to help is to donate money. There are numerous charities doing important work and worthy of your financial support. The nine United Ways in the state, each of which serves a portion of Maine, are developing community-specific responses to the COVID-19 outbreak. As such, a donation to your local United Way will stay in your community and be channeled to critical community-based work. To donate visit United Ways of Maine or call your local United Way.
The Maine Community Foundation has created a statewide emergency response fund to support nonprofit organizations that are involved in frontline efforts to serve the needs of those most affected by the virus and to contain the spread of COVID-19. Such organizations include area agencies on aging, community action programs, homeless shelters, food pantries, and other organizations that address hunger and provide food. Because the need is immediate, grants will be made proactively without the usual application process. To donate visit the Maine Community Foundation or call 207-761-2440.
Because emergency medical equipment and protective gear is in short supply, the Maine Helps page has information on donating medical equipment and helping to acquire more. It is important to note that while homemade masks can be useful for you and family members, the Maine Center for Disease Control is not recommending that health care providers use homemade masks. That could change if the situation worsens.
If you have medical or public health experience, your services could be needed. Register with Maine Responds.
You can also help by giving blood. With many blood drives canceled and fewer people coming to donation centers, the need for blood is critical. The Red Cross has taken additional steps to ensure the safety of volunteers and staff during the coronavirus outbreak.
As the Maine Helps website notes, you can help in less formal ways, too. Call your neighbors, especially those who are socially isolated. Volunteer to pick up and deliver groceries and medications. Use video tools, like FaceTime and Zoom, to make face-to-face connections.
You can help local businesses, too, by purchasing food and other items for pick up, take-out and delivery. Pay it Forward Maine has lots of suggestions for supporting Maine businesses and their employees, as they weather shutdowns or changes in how their companies operate. Buying gift cards, farm shares and other passes that you will use later, but pay for now, is a great way to get cash into the hands of small businesses that need it right away.
Of course, you may also need help. Calling 211 or visiting 211Maine is a good place to start. Help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and you’ll be directed to the agency or service that can best assist you. An online directory can quickly direct you to help for specific topics.
Maine Helps is a work in progress and we expect more helpful resources to be added soon. It is a good place to start your search for ways to help and to get help during this difficult time.
Watch: Symptoms of the coronavirus disease