Viewpoint: Four ways you can be a helper amidst COVID-19 crisis

by Jennifer Wolosin on March 13, 2020

A lot of us remember when Fred Rogers was asked what to do when a big, scary, event came upon us. His response was, “Look for the helpers.”

Now those of us who are able need to “be the helpers.” When institutions in our society begin to get overwhelmed and shut down (this is already happening), it will come down to neighbors helping neighbors to keep communities afloat.

I’m sharing with you four ways you can help your community at this time of need. If you are able, please consider helping. And what a great way to involve middle schoolers and teens with local public school campuses closed for the next several weeks!

1. Serve as a neighborhood block captain. This is about your direct neighbors, especially those living alone and those who are older and/or with medical conditions. There is a volunteer effort underway to organize our neighborhoods (supported by the MP Fire District). I just joined the effort today — it’s easy.

The effort needs more volunteers, from all over Menlo Park. For more information, please see the online recruitment flyer here.  If interested, contact organizer Lynne Bramlett at and she’ll get you set up.

2. Volunteer with Meals on Wheels. I just talked to Ann Eisenberg who is the Volunteer Coordinator with Peninsula Volunteers, which runs Meals on Wheels. They will have a (likely huge) increased demand for volunteers to deliver meals to seniors. This is a critical service in our community during normal times, and it will be vital to keep it operational during the weeks ahead.

All volunteers will need to undergo a background and DMV check before starting. If you are able and interested in this important work, please contact Ann Eisenberg at 650-272-5108 or

3. Volunteer with Second Harvest. Second Harvest depends on an extensive network of volunteers to distribute groceries to those in need across Silicon Valley. Due to COVID-19 concerns and precautions, they are currently experiencing a volunteer shortage.

If you are healthy and not immuno-compromised, please consider signing up for a shift or two here.  Volunteers need to be 14 or older (minors must be supervised by a parent), healthy, and ideally able to lift 25 pounds. Thanks to Katie Behroozi for connecting with this group.

4. Donate blood at the Stanford Blood Center. This is an immediate need for blood in the area and there is an emergency blood drive. Here is information about the Blood Center’s location in Menlo Park.

Not all of us will be able to help and we all handle crisis in different ways. Consider this an invitation to an opportunity. My dear friend, Dr. Kelli Harding, recently wrote a NY Times reviewed book about Kindness, and how those that have strong connections in their communities, and especially how those who volunteer, have healthier, happier and longer lives.

These local non-profits and others serving the most vulnerable welcome financial support as well

Please be safe and follow all necessary guidelines. I know you all have access to tons of info, but for local health information , Menlo Park falls under the San Mateo County Health Department. The 24/7 non-medical/non-emergency COVID-19 hotline is 211.

Menlo Park resident Jennifer Wolosin is founder of  Parents for Safe Routes

Photo courtesy of Second Harvest Food Bank of Silicon Valley


Christina McClure March 13, 2020 at 5:41 pm

Hi, I am wondering about school kids who receive their meals at their schools. Is there a program in place to deliver meals to those children? Any information is appreciated. Thank you, Christina

Linda Hubbard Gulker March 14, 2020 at 11:34 am

Here is Menlo Park City School District Superintendent Eric Burmeister statement in a letter to school district parents sent yesterday: “If your child receives Free or Reduced Lunch through the Federal Lunch Program, your child’s lunch will still be available. Please be on the lookout for direct communication about our unique in-person delivery plan.” So it sounds like those families are being contacted directly. Other local school districts probably have similar programs in place and probably best to contact them for how they are handling Federal school lunches. School offices will remain open.

Christina McClure March 14, 2020 at 1:22 pm

Thank you Linda!

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