Penniless heroes, unite! Walk a dog, make masks or write letters to fight the lonelies.

Dianne Jenett, 72, smiles at Sunita de Tourreil after she brought her a bag of groceries from Whole Foods Market in downtown Palo Alto on March 18, 2020. When de Tourreil drops off the groceries, the two friends chat while keep a safe amount of space between them. (Photo by Magali Gauthier)

Stuck sheltering in place but still want to be helpful?

There are many different ways to pitch in around the Peninsula without having to impact your own financial situation. Something as simple as walking a dog for a senior donating to a food drive can help out in your community.

We’ve listed some suggestions meant to be pursued in accordance with the shelter-in-place order. Staying healthy, doing everything you can to stop the spread of the coronavirus and taking care of yourself, your family and friends are important actions…but you can also get involved for the greater good, as well.

Volunteering can also help people manage stress and anxiety and form social connections.

So here are five things you can do to help people in need around the Peninsula. Take a look and help out.

Howard Kushlan walks Miles, a dog that belongs to two local seniors, in Menlo Park on April 1. Kushlan has organized a group of volunteers that complete tasks like walking dogs for seniors and other community members at high risk during the coronavirus crisis. (Photo by Magali Gauthier)

1. Register yourself as a volunteer.

The first place to start is by entering your name, skills and volunteer abilities into local mutual aid registries. Fill out the survey for San Mateo County here or one covering the South Bay — roughly Redwood City to San Jose — here, which asks if you’re willing to do things like prepare meals or walk pets for those in need.

You can access additional Santa Clara County opportunities to help here. Santa Clara County currently has calls out for people to provide housing; contribute medical equipment like N95 masks, surgical masks, face shields and gowns; and donate blood, among other requests.

Meals on Wheels client Pearlean Brazil receives a hot meal in her home in the Belle Haven neighborhood of Menlo Park. Meals on Wheels supports homebound seniors who were already fairly isolated before the coronavirus outbreak struck. (Photo by Magali Gauthier/The Almanac)

2. Fight loneliness. Write notes or talk to homebound seniors.

As the coronavirus continues to take its most severe toll on the elderly, some seniors are experiencing loneliness as they remain physically separated from friends and family.

To help mitigate some of that loneliness, Peninsula Volunteers, Inc.’s Meals on Wheels program, is accepting anonymous, upbeat, inspirational notes that are written by hand (and not in cursive) to deliver to homebound clients on the Peninsula.

The Menlo Park nonprofit asks that people not sign the cards, state a school or company name, use jokes or irony, or refer to religion or politics. People should also not glue on any type of decoration that can come off easily. Only glue sticks should be used as adhesives.

Donations are accepted from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Little House, located at 800 Middle Ave. in Menlo Park.

Bonus: If you are interested in a more long-term commitment to support seniors, consider applying to volunteer with the Institute on Aging’s Friendship Line. Volunteers respond to callers from throughout the Bay Area and provide emotional support, information and crisis intervention support. They must undergo training and are asked to commit to 96 hours of service. More information can be found here.

A mother and her daughter pick up food at a Second Harvest Food Bank distribution site in the days before coronavirus. Now distributions are done via drive-thru. (Photo by Ana Homonnay/Courtesy of Second Harvest Food Bank)

3. Feed the hungry.

A number of local nonprofits are accepting food donations, and several have set it up so that you don’t even have to leave your home to get food supplies in the hands of the nonprofits that need them.

Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, which is the primary food bank for San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, is accepting “virtual food drive” fundraisers for teams or individuals to raise funds. Each $1 donation supports two healthy meals, the nonprofit says. You can create your own fundraising team here, or access a registry of existing fundraising groups here.

Menlo-Atherton High School had raised $8,635 in food drive funds as of April 13, and Los Altos High School had just launched its own food drive.

For those also looking to clear some pantry space, other organizations are accepting canned and dry goods, including the Ecumenical Hunger Program in East Palo Alto.

“For the first time in EHP’s history, we are running critically low on resources,” the program announced on its website.

Access a wish list of desired food items here. Of particular need are bottled water and gift cards. The program is only open Tuesdays through Thursdays until further notice.

Julie Curry sews masks in her home in Menlo Park on April 15, 2020. Curry said she makes at least 20 masks every day. (Photo by Magali Gauthier)

4. Be a maker.

The Menlo Park-based nonprofit LifeMoves, which serves homeless and housing-insecure individuals and families, is accepting homemade face masks for adults and children over the age of 2.

The nonprofit is asking that masks follow the pattern found here.

Deliveries are accepted Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at LifeMoves’ administrative offices at 181 Constitution Drive in Menlo Park or at 546 W. Julian St. in San Jose. More information here.

Peninsula Volunteers, Inc., which runs Meals on Wheels, also needs handmade washable, reusable masks. They want makers to avoid using elastic ties since some reportedly melt in the dryer.

LifeMoves is also accepting no-sew fleece blankets. People can purchase kits online for home delivery or in-person or curbside pickup through Jo-Ann’s or other vendors. The blankets only require a pair of scissors and some knot-tying skills.

Adeel Shaikh, left, prepares to get blood drawn by medical assistant Phillip Martin, center, at the Stanford Blood Center. Blood banks in the Bay Area are calling on potential donors to give blood amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Palo Alto Weekly file photo.)

5. Donate blood or plasma.

If you have recovered from a confirmed, verified case of COVID-19, the American Red Cross may be able to use plasma in your blood to help current COVID-19 patients. The plasma contains antibodies that can help the body fight off the virus. Candidates to donate plasma must be in good health, at least 17 years old and 110 pounds, and have recovered from a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19. Access more information here.

Stanford Blood Center is also accepting blood donations and the need has grown since corporate blood drives have halted as employees have been asked to work from home. Make an appointment here. Donating blood is considered an essential activity and an acceptable reason to leave the house.

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Kate Bradshaw

Kate Bradshaw

Kate Bradshaw reports food news and feature stories all over the Peninsula, from south of San Francisco to north of San José. Since she began working with Embarcadero Media in 2015, she's reported on everything from Menlo Park's City Hall politics to Mountain View's education system. She has won awards from the California News Publishers Association for her coverage of local government, elections and land use reporting.

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