Volunteer efforts to distribute meals and other life-sustaining services in Pennsylvania are an essential activity, even during a Stay-at-Home Order.
The charitable food system is supported by a foundation of tens of thousands of volunteers who generously give their time week after week to support Pennsylvanians in need. Our current pandemic exacerbates the need for volunteers across the commonwealth.
First Lady Frances Wolf has called for healthy Pennsylvanians to consider volunteering to help those who need it, reminding them to follow all safety precautions while doing so.
If you've been wondering how you can help, we've rounded up some opportunities to help your community.
Central Pennsylvania Food Bank
The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank non-profit needs volunteers to help pack Crisis Response Boxes. Volunteers who can help at the food bank are being put in groups of 10 or less, per guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People who volunteer must sign a waiver confirming they aren't showing COVID-19 symptoms and haven't been in contact with anyone who does have symptoms. Interested parties can contact volunteer manager Chris Grey at firstname.lastname@example.org, sign up online, and can make direct donations to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.
The Department of Agriculture provided guidance to food banks to safely continue operations and protect the public, volunteers, and staff. Community feeding guidance was also developed to protect those attending and working at community feeding locations throughout the commonwealth.
The Feeding Task Force also engages with the Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster and SERVPA to identify volunteer capabilities that exist and connect them with needs that arise around the state.
The Contact Helpline
The Contact Helpline runs the 211-phone line, a 24-hour informational and referral service that helps connect callers to services such as SNAP, unemployment compensation and other vital resources for assistance. Contact Helpline is looking for volunteers, who can be quickly trained and can take calls from home. Volunteers must have access to a computer, internet and appropriate headset for phone conversations. Interested parties should reach out to Kelly Gollick at email@example.com. Donations can be made to the Contact Helpline.
Stay Home and Foster: Pennsylvania Animal Shelters
Animal shelters are operating with a lighter workforce and fewer supplies. Shelters across Pennsylvania say people can help by fostering, adopting or by making online donations. Stay Home and Foster, a Coronavirus shelter emergency response, is seeking emergency fosters nationwide to host a cat or dog for 2-6 weeks. To become an emergency foster, fill out an online application to connect your information with a shelter in your area. When you're matched with a pet, you'll hear from the shelter directly to finish the process. For everyone's safety, many shelters are offering foster pet delivery or low-contact pickup.
PA Veteran Farming Project's Ag Allies Mentorship Program
Beginning farmers may face challenges such as lack of experience and capital, confusion on regulatory requirements, or developing marketing or business skills. The PA Veteran Farming Project, the Commonwealth's home-grown network of veterans and military who farm or operate agribusinesses, can help. Mentor partnerships are flexible and during the COVID-19 crisis can even be virtual. Ag Allies partnerships and can be structured to fit just about any circumstance and need: farm visits when it's safe again to do so, phone calls, email, or text. Mentor matches may be for a short duration to work on a specific project, or can be on-going, as needed.
PA Farm Link
Pennsylvania Farm Link is a non-profit organization dedicated to "linking farmers to the future." PFL accomplishes their mission two ways, through an online database and by offering educational workshops for landowners and beginning farmers. PA Farm Link can provide contact information for various organizations in Pennsylvania that may have volunteer hands-on opportunities. Some of these organizations are already listed in the "Resource" section of the PA Farm Link webpage. Additionally, website visitors can monetarily support PFL programming.
Finding Additional Volunteer Opportunities
- Contact a volunteer agency or center directly to inquire about their needs.
- Visit PA211 for volunteer opportunities posted by agencies seeking volunteer help.
- Register at SERVPa to create a volunteer profile. When prompted, choose "COVID Volunteers" as your "organization", then follow the links.