Community leaders offer easy ways to give back this season

[6 MIN READ] 

In this article:

  • Giving Tuesday encourages people to give back to causes they care about and do good in their communities.
  • Providence recently hosted a virtual event – Giving through service: Celebrating Giving Tuesday with our hearts and hands. The event included key community service providers, who have continued their important work despite pandemic challenges.
  • Leaders from Bloodworks Northwest, Union Gospel Mission, and Providence offer ideas for giving back in meaningful ways, aside from monetary donations.

The holiday season is here – the season of giving. And one day, in particular, Giving Tuesday, encourages people to give back to causes they care about and to do good in their communities.

At Providence, we emphasize giving back, especially to the most vulnerable. Through our Community Partnerships division, we work with organizations to amplify our impact, raise awareness, and inspire others to serve. Through the Action Hub, Providence’s caregiver hub for community engagement, our fall service campaign has mobilized a call for blood donations, hygiene kits for our community members experiencing homelessness, and messages of hope to isolated community members.

Building on these themes, Brittn Grey, Executive Director for Global and Domestic Engagement, recently hosted a virtual event – Giving through service: Celebrating Giving Tuesday with our hearts and hands. Key community service providers from Bloodworks Northwest, Union Gospel Mission, and Providence inspired listeners with ideas for giving back in meaningful ways.

Watch the full event recording

Giving Tuesday event partners

Each organization represented at the live event serves a distinct and vital purpose in our communities. Speakers included:

Hannah McNutt, Bloodworks Northwest

Bloodworks Northwest is a local, independent, community-based non-profit. Their work provides a safe, lifesaving blood supply to 95% of hospitals in the Pacific Northwest. They also have a lab and physicians that help with blood clotting diseases and research.

Brian Chandler, Union Gospel Mission (UGM)

Union Gospel Mission (UGM) is a non-profit ministry that loves and cares for homeless neighbors throughout the greater Seattle area. They provide services to individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness, living with a mental health condition or experiencing substance use disorder through their recovery program, shelters, meal programs, and other initiatives.  

Nathan Rogers, Providence Mission Integration and Spiritual Care, Providence Alaska Long Term Care

In Alaska, Providence has two facilities focused on providing care to older adults who need skilled nursing or rehabilitation services:

Providence's Mission Integration team works with these facilities to provide spiritual care.

How the pandemic has challenged community services

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many challenges, especially for those who rely on community services. We spoke with our panel about obstacles their organizations have overcome during this time.

Blood donations have decreased, causing a national blood shortage

Currently, Bloodworks Northwest has a low blood supply available, which is a challenge because the need for blood is still high.

“We are calling it the perfect storm,” said McNutt. “One reason, of course, is COVID-19. We have social distancing guidelines in place, which means we’ve had to drop the number of appointments we can offer per hour at our centers and popups.”

Other challenges with blood donations include:

  • Staffing shortages, which lead to reduced hours at centers and less community outreach.
  • Missed appointments, which can create new challenges when people cancel at the last minute or don’t show up for one of the limited appointment slots.
  • School limitations, which prevent visits to high schools and colleges to reach first-time donors.

To address these concerns, Bloodworks Northwest is focusing on generating more awareness about donating blood to bring in more first-time donors. They’ve had several campaigns, including an end-of-year Music’s in Our Blood campaign, partnering with Sub-pop Records, Starbucks, and radio stations.

The need for homelessness and mental health support has increased

With COVID, UGM has had to keep up with the growing need for its services.

“Being homeless has its own challenges,” said Chandler, “and you throw the pandemic in there, and the result was an increase in people who were pushed out onto the street.”

With people losing jobs and their homes because of the pandemic, many became homeless for the first time.

Chandler noted that at times, when we think about an individual experiencing homelessness, certain stereotypes come to mind, but compassion calls us to see that, “these are families. These are people who are scared to death and don’t know what to do next.”

In response to the growing need, UGM’s outreach teams have found more creative and innovative ways to approach their programs. They’ve focused on partnering with other organizations and building relationships.

“We’re out on the street trying to build relationships with individuals, trying to let them know that we care about them and that there is a path out,” explained Chandler. “That gives the hope that they need to carry on.”

People in long-term care have struggled with isolation

For residents in long-term care at Providence, the pandemic didn’t necessarily create new challenges but made the existing challenges harder. 

“It’s well-known in this sector that the three greatest challenges in long-term care for the residents are loneliness, helplessness, and boredom,” said Rogers. “And the pandemic increased that sense of loneliness and helplessness amongst our residents.”

Staff created meaningful experiences for residents to help reduce isolation. One initiative called Messages of Hope engages caregivers at Providence. Caregivers write a card or letter with an uplifting story or something that brings them hope, happiness, or joy.

“It’s from a stranger to a stranger,” said Rogers. “We had one resident cry at the notion that somebody they didn’t know was thinking of them. One of our nurses in the cottage shared how it warmed her heart to see that somebody else was trying to care for her residents too. So, it gave her an extra boost as well.”

COVID-safe ways to give that go beyond money

For many, Giving Tuesday and the holiday season means donating money to certain organizations and causes. Monetary donations are definitely important. But there also are many other easy ways to give that don’t involve your wallet:

Donate blood.

Donating blood saves lives.

“A lot of times people think that victims of a trauma accident, say a car accident, are the first and only people to get a blood transfusion,” said McNutt. “But it’s really those cancer and leukemia patients that receive multiple donations of blood transfusions for their treatments.”

Spread the word about blood donations or host a blood drive.

Even if you can’t donate blood yourself, you can share with others the need for blood donations. Consider asking your church or group you attend if they would be willing to host a blood drive.

Make hygiene kits.

“Hygiene is such as huge need right now,” said Chandler. “There are not a lot of places available to get something as simple as a toothbrush and toothpaste, so consider putting together some hygiene packs.”

Organizations that serve the homeless desperately need these essential supplies to provide to people during outreach efforts and when they are moving into temporary shelters. UGM.org shows kits if you want to make them yourself or other goods to donate.

Host a coat drive.

With the colder weather upon us, organizations like UGM are looking for coats, hats, gloves, and scarves. Consider hosting a coat drive at your work, home, or with your church or family. The UGM drop-off locations are listed on their website.

Gather a group to volunteer.

Connect with nonprofit organizations in your community to see what volunteer opportunities they have and invite your friends and family to join for you a day. Volunteering can help build relationships, get active and develop new skills while giving back to your community in a meaningful way.

“It’s always a big impact for the people we serve and for us,” said Chandler. “It encourages our hearts too, having other people out there. It’s nice to see new faces and build new friendships.”

Plan your own Messages of Hope.

Collect some stationery and envelopes and write your own message of hope. Call a local housing site, community center, or long-term care facility and ask if there is an interest in receiving letters. What could lift their spirits just a little?

Visit someone in a long-term care setting.

If you know someone in a facility, go visit them. Or go meet someone new.

“In our facility, visiting is open any time,” said Rogers. “We do a COVID screening. We’ll give you PPE (personal protective equipment) and a mask shield and all those appropriate things.”

Making a lasting impact with your heart and hands

At Providence, we strive to make a difference by giving through service. There are many lasting ways to help our communities while staying safe from COVID.

When you give blood or help others give blood, you’re saving a life.

“I worked with a little girl, who needed a heart transplant,” shared McNutt. “She ended up receiving 59 units of blood as a little baby. Because of those donations and what was on the shelf at that time, she was able to have a successful surgery.”

When you help someone find housing or necessities, you’re helping them move forward.

“The other day I got a phone call at 3:30 in the morning, and I looked at my phone, and it was 32 degrees outside,” shared Chandler. “The call was about a mom and her four kids who were living in a pickup truck due to a domestic violence situation. First time ever being homeless. We were able to get them into housing and connected to services. Nothing warms your heart more than when you see a child who gets the help that they need to be able to push forward in their life.” 

When you visit someone, you’re bringing them joy.

“If you visit someone in a facility, it’s a small part of your day, but it’s probably the biggest part of their day,” said Rogers. “And if you visit regularly, what an impact you can make by creating some of those connections, especially long-term connections.”

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Visit our Annual Report to our Communities page

To learn more about what we’re doing to help our caregivers and other community partners, check out our Annual Report to our Communities.

Related resources

Get relevant, up-to-date information on the coronavirus (COVID-19) from Providence.

If you need care, don't delay. Learn more about your options.

New Action Hub helps caregivers respond to community needs

Food insecurity and the pandemic: How Providence is responding in one local market

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

 

 

About the Author

The Providence Community Engagement team is focused on shining a spotlight on big societal topics. We are committed to bring you information and resources about issues and polices that impact all Americans.

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