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Volunteering Safely During the COVID-19 Pandemic

March 23, 2020

By Jordan Mullens, volunteer and community administrative assistance, United Way of Northeast Florida 

Every day, more than half a million people in Northeast Florida struggle to afford basic necessities. The COVID-19 pandemic is exasperating these existing needs and creating unparalleled demands on the organizations that serve vulnerable populations. Nonprofits are lean organizations whose daily operations heavily rely on volunteers, a rapidly diminishing resource.

In order to honor United Way of Northeast Florida’s commitment to support their nonprofit partners, a COVID-19 Volunteer Response Page was created to list current volunteer opportunities and partner needs. We are constantly heeding our partners’ judgement on their ability to stay open and support service members or volunteers.

United Way’s first priority is keeping volunteers and their families safe during this public health crisis. Before volunteering, it is paramount to review the Florida Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) guidelines discussed below:

Confirm the activity.

Volunteers should first confirm that there is still a need for an event or activity and that volunteer support is still essential and expected. Prepare for shift or event cancellations; especially opportunities working with vulnerable populations. Please be gracious and understanding.

Prevent transmission.

VOAD advises people to avoid volunteer activity if they have been in an airport the last 14 days, vacationed on a cruise, been around anyone who has COVID-19, or attended an event where more than 250 people were present.

Ask about additional safety precautions before arrival.

Volunteers should call ahead to the service agency and ask if additional safety precautions should be taken before, during, and after the shift. Volunteers are expected to practice universal infection control precautions like cleaning and washing hands before, during, and after volunteering. Additionally, organizations may require you to wear personal protective equipment. All surfaces should be cleaned thoroughly before and after activities.

Continue practicing social distancing while conducting tasks.

Please maintain a six to 10 feet separation from others. Ask about risks associated with the task and do not take part if you are uncomfortable with the level of risk. Volunteers belonging to at-risk populations should consider rescheduling commitments or consider virtual alternatives to regular, in-person activities.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has excellent resources and the most up-to-date information about the COVID-19 pandemic. To stay informed, visit www.cdc.gov.