Volunteering in light of COVID-19

April 27, 2020

As a people of faith, we are called to be in compassionate relationship with others. We put our faith in action, witnessing to the love of God we have received through Jesus Christ, by reaching out to others. In 1 Peter we are reminded to “love each other deeply… offer hospitality to one another… [and] use whatever gift [we] have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (4:10) Offering our gifts in service with others is complicated by the novel coronavirus. We must be smart about the ways in which we serve, in order to protect the more vulnerable among us. For many who cannot be in large groups, the task these days is to “mission in place.” Take advantage of opportunities for serving that do not require leaving home: pray often, call or write to those who are secluded, make masks for others, and see if there are other ways of supporting local nonprofits from home.

The following guidance is provided for those who are able to engage in service opportunities that put them in contact with others. This guidance is offered in light of the best available information about the novel coronavirus and its disease, COVID-19; it also includes standard best practices for serving at any time. These guidelines will be updated as new information is available. When planning your service, make sure to follow current orders and recommendations from your state or local health department.

  • Do volunteer if you can do so safely, taking reasonable precautions to protect yourself, those with whom you will serve, and the people you live with.
  • Do volunteer if you are healthy and have no reason to believe you may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus in the previous 14 days.
  • Don’t volunteer if you are in any of the high-risk categories for the novel coronavirus.
  • Don’t volunteer if you live with, or are in frequent contact with, people in the high-risk categories for the novel coronavirus.
  • Don’t volunteer if you don’t feel well or if you have a fever or a persistent cough.
  • Don’t volunteer if, in the past two weeks, you have been in contact with someone who later began to experience symptoms related to the coronavirus (fever, cough, tiredness, trouble breathing, etc.). The fact that the virus can spread without the presence of symptoms makes it impossible to know whether you were exposed and are carrying / shedding the virus yourself.
  • Out of an abundance of caution and care, don’t volunteer if, in the past two weeks, you have reason to believe you were in contact with someone who was recently exposed to the coronavirus.

Before volunteering,

  • Verify that there is a need for your service – don’t just show up without confirmation.
  • Make sure that you fully understand the service that is required, that you are comfortable with the task, and that you are capable of performing it.
  • Know where you are going and who to contact when you arrive.
  • Ask what safety protocols and requirements for volunteers they have in place.
  • Know what supplies (especially personal protective equipment) you must bring with you and what will be provided.

While volunteering,

  • Follow the safety protocols and hygiene procedures of the service agency.
  • Practice social distancing, maintaining at least six feet between yourself and others.
  • Wear a face covering / mask (that covers the mouth and nose) to express your concern for the health of others.
  • • Disposable gloves: wear them if requested, but don’t let gloves lull you into a false sense of security. Don’t touch your face. Don’t wear them longer than necessary. Dispose of gloves after removing them – do not reuse gloves. And immediately wash hands thoroughly after removing gloves.
  • • Clean/sanitize shared surfaces regularly.
  • Do not touch your face (especially nose, mouth, and eyes) while volunteering.
  • Sneeze into a tissue (preferably) or the inside of your elbow and immediately clean your hands after.
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently, including before and after eating.
  • Pack your own snacks, water bottle, and lunch if you will be there over a lunch break.
  • Change your clothes as soon as you arrive home and wash your hands and face.