When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it quickly became clear that frontline workers were disturbingly vulnerable. You could not turn on a TV, open social media, or read a news article without a mention of the virus and the heroism of health care workers. People lined the streets to bang pots and pans to express their gratitude. They sent thank you cards and dinners to frontline workers.
As numbers spiked and hospital units filled, we witnessed an outpouring of generosity from individuals, corporations and foundations. According to Candid, more than 1,100 major funders have granted $16.5 billion toward COVID-19 relief efforts. This does not include in-kind donations, mutual aid, and other types of grassroots efforts.
Communities came together to support one another. According to the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, during the initial months of the pandemic, 56 percent of U.S. households engaged in some type of charitable activity in response to the crisis. In the private sector, Charities Aid Foundation of America found that 7 in 10 American corporations increased charitable contribution budgets and 43.7 percent awarded a higher number of grants.
We were among the thousands of Americans nationwide — spanning the public, private and nonprofit sectors — who created programs to help. Through an expansive collaboration between Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, Los Angeles Public Library, Goodwill SoCal, Tieks, the City of Baldwin Park, Greater Los Angeles Hospital Registry and Los Angeles County’s Youth@Work Program, we will deploy more than 50,000 face shields to county hospitals, along with 250,000 additional units of personal protection equipment (PPE), including face masks, gowns and goggles.
When this emergency coalition sprung up in April, we never could have imagined that our help would still be needed eight months later. But here we are. With more than 365,000 cases to date, Los Angeles County continues to post the highest COVID-19 numbers in California by a huge margin.
Our health care workers are crying for help. They don’t have adequate PPE, and some are still being asked to reuse single-use materials. Hospital teams are understaffed, overworked and putting their lives on the line — for us. As the news cycle turns its attention to other pressing issues, health care workers no longer are receiving the same widespread encouragement and community care. As The Atlantic recently shared, many frontline health care workers feel abandoned and alone, at risk of burning out.
This GivingTuesday, we will be in the midst of the largest domestic spike in positive COVID-19 cases to date. We need to reignite the generosity that inspired collective action in the first few months of the pandemic. If the health crisis isn’t slowing down, neither can we. We must each become long haulers for good.
GivingTuesday is about more than donations. It is about the nature of generosity. The most basic act of generosity that each of us can take is to follow public health guidelines. Wear a mask, stay at home, wash your hands frequently. These are important things any one of us can do to support our frontline workers.
For those who have the ability to do more, here are a few places to start:
- Become a public health ambassador. Remind your friends, family and social media community to make responsible public health decisions.
- Call a local nonprofit organization that’s getting necessary resources, such as food, PPE and medical care, to the most vulnerable in your community and ask how you can help.
- Sew masks and share them. (For inspiration, check out how our friends at Tieks inspired their community to generate a million masks through their #SewTogether campaign.)
- Support the essential workers in your life — send a funny text, let them know you appreciate their sacrifice, bring food, offer to walk their dogs. Let them know you have their back.
- Call a hospital or clinic to see what holiday cheer you can share to brighten the team’s day.
- Using tools such as Give InKind, organize meal support for hospital staff or people who are traversing other hardships during this unprecedented time.
- And if you have the financial means to do so, donate. Try to make your dollars stretch by zeroing in on hyper-local efforts.
We’re inspired by the love, strength and resiliency that communities have shown in the midst of this global health crisis. Now is not the time to look away. This GivingTuesday, commit to doing one thing in support of health care workers. The only way through this is together.
Emily Kane Miller is founder and CEO of Ethos Giving, and co-founder of the Emergency Supply Donor Group and The Greater Los Angeles Hospital Registry. She also is a scholar in residence at The Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab at the USC Marshall School of Business.