man packaging food
Volunteering for COVID-19 Needs
The outpouring of volunteer energy that has emerged in Montgomery County in response to the COVID-19 emergency has been truly inspiring. Although opportunities to assist are currently limited due to the need for extraordinary health precautions at this time, there are critical ways to serve now and there will be many more ways to serve in the coming months as organizations adapt to the evolving needs of our community.

Here are some ways to get involved:

  • To be added to our disaster response volunteer list, create an account on our website and answer Yes to “Contact me in the event of a disaster.” If you already have an account and want to make sure you’ve flagged the disaster response option, Log in, click “Edit Profile” and under “Settings” make sure “Contact me in the event of a disaster” is switched to On.

  • Get notified about new volunteer needs by clicking the Become a Fan button for any specific organization that you want to help.

The Volunteer Center urges you to be flexible, proactive, and, above all, safe in your volunteer response, and to check back frequently for updates.
Connections for Grassroots Volunteers
Are you looking for ways to organize or find neighborhood help in your community? While the Volunteer Center focuses on connecting volunteers with official nonprofit and government agencies, here are some emerging "unaffiliated" ways that neighbors are assisting neighbors or organizing special volunteer activities during this pandemic.

Nextdoor.com: You can join this online neighborhood communications platform to follow and contribute to discussions about volunteer efforts. Plus, it now features Nextdoor Help Maps, which allow you to sign up to offer a particular type of assistance to other residents in your community. (Those seeking help can message any of those who have offered.) In addition, your neighborhood may have special Nextdoor Groups devoted to volunteering or COVID-19.
Other Neighborhood Email Groups: Many neighborhoods, school clusters, and zip codes in Montgomery County have active listservs on Groups.io and/or Google Groups (and some may still be using Yahoo Groups, which is ceasing support and therefore has lost many groups). Discussions often center on COVID-19, including ways to serve during this emergency.
Communities Unbreakable: This community-led effort uses an online tool to connect people to help provide non-urgent community support in several Montgomery County neighborhoods. The organizers built their platform on free technology and have offered technical assistance for other neighborhoods that could make use of the platform. For more information, email communitiesunbreakablemoco@gmail.com.

MoCo HoCo Mask Makers: Montgomery County and Howard County residents have joined forces to match people who are making face masks with individuals and organizations that have requested them. Site also includes mask patterns and instructions as well as information on donating mask-making supplies.

Teens Helping Seniors: High school students are coordinating a group of teen and adult volunteers to deliver (no contact) essential supplies to older residents in a growing list of communities, including Germantown, Rockville, Potomac, Bethesda, and Silver Spring. Email teenshelpingseniors@gmail.com to get involved.

covaid.co Mutual Aid Connector: Developed by a group of college students and recent grads, this is an online tool designed to match neighborhood volunteers with the elderly and immunocompromised residents in need of help based on zip code.

Email volunteer@montgomerycountymd.gov with any suggested additions to this list.
The Stay-at-Home Order and Essential Volunteers
Confused about how Gov. Hogan's March 30 stay-at-home order applies to you as a volunteer? According to state guidance, the order does not change which organizations are deemed essential or nonessential. Thus, those that serve critical needs (such as food and healthcare) should be able to continue to operate as needed, with volunteer assistance as appropriate. (And nonclinical volunteers should continue to follow this guidance developed by the Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and the Department of Health and Human Services.)

Further, the stay-at-home order specifically notes that nonprofit organizations and government agencies that provide essential services to low-income persons are not required to close, and that staff and volunteers traveling to, from, or in connection with their duties at such organizations may continue to do so.

For most volunteers, however, the best way to help our entire community at this time is to stay home, supporting operations remotely as needed.

Maryland recommends that volunteers who must commute as part of their service may wish to carry a letter from their sponsoring organization, showing their need for travel if challenged. The state suggests these letters, if produced, include
  • the name and address of the volunteer
  • the name and address of the organization
  • the nature of the volunteer's work
  • a brief statement of why the organization remains open
  • authorized signature and contact information for the organization
Taking Care While Being a Good Neighbor
As you reach out to help others, please protect yourself and those you are serving by taking the following precautions developed by Montgomery County’s Office of Emergency Management and Department of Health and Human Services:

  • Stay home unless you must be out for essential reasons.
  • Stay home from work, school, and all activities when you are sick with COVID-19 symptoms, which may include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.
  • Keep away from others who are sick.
  • Limit close physical contact with others as much as possible (about 6 feet).
  • Call, email, or text your neighbors who may need help.
  • If they are in need of immediate emergency care, call 911.
  • Limit your help to non-contact activities. For example:
  • Leave groceries on the doorstep. (Do not enter their house.)
  • Make sure to thoroughly wash your hands before touching anything you deliver to them.
  • To promote social interactions and combat loneliness, speak with neighbors on the phone or by video chat (versus going into their homes) on a regular basis.
  • Conduct research on their needs and provide them with resources or connect them directly with help such as feeding, transportation to medical appointments, animal services, etc.
  • Alert authorities if you think that a neighbor is in danger.
  • Do not act on your own.
  • Create an online network for your community.
  • Remember to protect yourself first! Do not put yourself or others at risk.
MCPS Student Service Learning News
Because students do not have access to SSL opportunities during this time, MCPS is collaborating with the state of Maryland on a plan to support students with their service-learning needs, including the state-mandated SSL graduation requirements. Although the state has not determined how it might update these requirements in light of the pandemic, this state of emergency is expected to be taken into consideration. MCPS will announce any changes as soon as they are determined.

Service award updates: Due to the state of emergency, MCPS has extended the due date for documentation for its service recognition awards--the Certificate of Meritorious Service for high school seniors and the Superintendent’s SSL Award for middle school students--to Wednesday, April 22. In addition, the award requirement for the Certificate of Meritorious Service has been prorated to account for the period of time during which schools have been closed. This year's high school seniors must complete and submit documentation showing 240 or more SSL hours to receive the award. (Middle school students must submit documentation showing the completion of at least 75 hours to receive the Superintendent's SSL Award.)

To submit SSL documentation, email completed MCPS Form 560-51: Student Service Learning Activity Verification to ssl@mcpsmd.org (by April 22 to be considered for the awards). Any SSL forms that were previously submitted to school SSL coordinators will be entered by April 22.
Stay Tuned for More ...
April is Global Volunteer Recognition Month and we don't want to miss any opportunity to recognize the incredible difference Montgomery County volunteers are making--especially today. So watch your inbox for a bonus newsletter highlighting volunteer service--including announcement of the 2020 Montgomery Serves Awards honorees--in the coming days. (As you can guess, the Montgomery Serves Awards presentation gala planned for this month has been cancelled, but we will find a meaningful way to recognize this year's volunteers of the year.)
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The Montgomery County Volunteer Center is part of the Office of Community Partnerships, which works to strengthen the relationship between the Montgomery County government and the residents it serves, with special emphasis on underserved and emerging communities. Subscribe to the monthly OCP newsletter to keep up with these activities.

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