BY ERIN MCGRATH, OPERATIONS MANAGER, THE HUB
One of the greatest parts about living in West Virginia is how willing our neighbors are to lend a helping hand to one another. We’ve seen plenty of examples of this throughout the history of this great state. From organized efforts to feed kids when schools were unexpectedly closed in 2018 (and 2020), to clearing each other’s houses out after the floods in 2016, to making sure folks had water during the 2014 Water Crisis, our hills and hollers are no stranger to neighbors helping neighbors.
In fact, during the most recent national study, an estimated 74.4% of West Virginians engage in “informal volunteering” activities that help their neighbors. We’re good at reaching out to our neighbors too… In fact, an estimated 90.9% of us frequently talk to our neighbors. (source)
This is an important strength of ours because, in this unprecedented time, one of the greatest assets we have is each other. During times of crisis, one of the first questions lots of folks ask is “What can I do to help?” In this time where we’re trying to figure out how to come together from far apart, it may seem harder than in times past to do just that. If you’re wondering how you might organize volunteers to fill a critical need in your community when you can’t meet with them face-to-face, here are a few ways that you can rally folks remotely.
Social media is a powerful tool for bringing us together, even when we’re not in a strange situation like this one. West Virginians are on Facebook. A simple ask of your Facebook friends may help you find efforts already happening in your neighborhood, or you may be able to find other people who want to rally around the same need. You can use things like Facebook Groups to organize your team and communicate plans.
We’ve seen folks in other states, and in our own backyard, using Google Forms to organize around particular needs. Google Forms are free and completely customizable! It’s an easy way to screen volunteers and collect information to contact them when needed. The popular Facebook Group WV Food ER 2020, created during the Coronavirus pandemic, is using Google Forms to collect requests for food, hygenie supplies, essential services like childcare, and others (click here to access their form). Another group of concerned neighbors organized on Facebook to make masks for healthcare workers, the WV Mask Army, and then used a Google Form to recruit volunteers (Click here to access their form. It is viewable in a website, but this is a Google Form!).
We’re no strangers to using video conferencing services at The Hub. When you need to meet, but can’t be face to face, there are a few services that you can use to ‘meet’ with your volunteers. Services like Google Hangouts, Skype and Zoom may require membership for larger capacity meetings, but services like FreeConferenceCall.com offer a free version which may be a good way to meet with your team. (Note, some video conferencing services are experiencing higher use than usual, and so you may want to schedule calls to happen on the 15, 35, and 45 of an hour!)
Just because we can’t be together during this time doesn’t mean that we’re alone. Let’s keep thinking of new ways to help our neighbors to get through this time together!