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Holiday Help: Ideas for how to safely volunteer during this holiday season

Nancy Dzurnak, program manager at Greater Cleveland Volunteers, offers ideas ranging from recording videos for seniors to participating in food distributions.

CLEVELAND — As the world adjusts to a holiday season dominated by a pandemic, the need across Northeast Ohio is great. That's why helping our neighbors during the holidays when there is a rise in COVID-19 cases can be a little trickier -- but it's not impossible.

“In the past … the holidays are a great time to come together as a community and it’s all about that and we’re really saying that’s not really what you should be doing this year,” says Nancy Dzurnak, program manager at Greater Cleveland Volunteers. “We’ve adjusted, we’ve pivoted, we’ve changed.”

Dzurnak still has ideas for how the entire family can safely make their community a better place.

If your kid loves recording videos, Dzurnak says they can put those skills to use with the organization Love for our Elders. Volunteers record encouraging videos or write letters to isolated seniors.

“They love seeing, you know, the little kids singing the songs or, you know, telling the joke or showing the picture,” Dzurnak explains. “What a great way, especially younger children, [to] lighten up the face and the heart of an older individual.”

Both kids and teens don't have to look any further than their own street to find ways to help. They can consider assisting with yard maintenance in their community.

“Are the leaves piling up at your neighbor’s house? Maybe you can get out there and rake them for them,” Dzurnak shares.

Another idea for families is to start collecting nonperishable food and donating the items to a food pantry.

Dzurnak says the holiday season is typically about hunger and feeding those in need. However, COVID-19 safety recommendations have shifted the focus for adult volunteers from serving and cooking meals to sorting and distributing food.

“You have the ability to help get those things to someone’s Thanksgiving table, just not in the same way.”

In fact, Greater Cleveland Volunteers is currently helping the May Dugan Center in Cleveland recruit adult volunteers for their food distributions.

Adults can also enroll as volunteers to provide wellness check phone calls to older adults. This is a service that will continue after the holiday season.

“I would say the greatest thing about volunteering is it’s a great way to give back to the community,” says Dzurnak. “We are a better community when people give of their self for the good of others.”

For additional volunteer opportunities this holiday season, check out the three stories below.

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