Photo courtesy of We Got This Seattle. Photographer: Theodore Bickel, ICHS
Almost a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, we are indebted to essential workers who’ve stocked and sold us groceries, tended our dental and medical issues, removed trash, put out fires and taught our children. So, how do we repay the people who risk their own health to keep society up and running?
For medical workers — and the wider community — the most important gift we can give is to continue wearing masks and keeping our distance from others. But if you’re looking for ways to show your appreciation beyond helping stop the spread of the coronavirus, we’ve curated few ideas.
1. Make donations and tips.
First, before sending muffins to hospital nursing staff or handing gift cards to phlebotomists, do a little research to find out what can be accepted. Most hospitals and medical centers do not allow personnel to accept cash or gifts. At the University of Washington, you can recognize an employee and give a monetary gift to UW Medicine in honor of staff members. Swedish Medical Center hosts a similar program through its foundation.
Mail carriers can accept offerings worth as much as $20, but no cash, or cards used as cash such as Visa and Mastercard. Area Kroger stores, which include Fred Meyer and QFC, do not allow their employees to accept tips, but Seattle public school teachers are permitted to receive gifts from families and community members as long as those gifts don’t exceed a $100 in value from one family in one school year.
2. Feed frontline workers.
Consider a contribution to We Got This Seattle, which Ellen Kuwana started in March 2020. She began by delivering Pagliacci-donated pizzas to UW virology lab personnel who were processing COVID-19 tests. Her organization and mission have expanded to feed everyone involved in caring for COVID-19 patients from healthcare workers to cleaners. Select from various donation tiers to send sustenance to our healthcare heroes. Frontline Foods, a national organization with a Seattle chapter, also welcomes donations to nourish medical staff at more than 25 local sites.
3. Make masks.
Before an adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) became available, the Providence 100 Million Mask Challenge put out a call asking community crafters to sew surgical masks. Now that PPE is easier to come by, hospitals may have what they need, but many shelters and community service centers still require facial coverings. Sign up to stitch masks or look into donating to the Helping Hands Fund for Providence employees financially impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
4. Give meal delivery services.
When essential workers get precious time off, the last thing many of them want to do is cook. A meal delivery service gift card will allow them to receive pre-measured ingredients along with recipes to whip up their own nutritious dishes. Consider Home Chef, Sunbasket for meal kits and Freshly for fully cooked meals that only need to be reheated.
5. Give blood.
Help doctors and nurses to help others by giving blood. There is an ongoing, sometimes dire, need for whole blood and platelets. In addition, Bloodworks Northwest’s COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma donations boost COVID-19 patients’ recoveries and assist researchers in understanding how humans respond to the novel coronavirus.
6. Participate in studies and trials.
Enrolling in a treatment trial, observational study or vaccine trial is a crucial way to help end the pandemic. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has several to choose from. Helping to get the pandemic under control is, let’s face it, the best present we can give any frontline worker.
7. Fund child care.
Through Seattle YMCA, you can help fund child care for first responders, medical personnel and other essential workers who are often working longer and harder than ever before.
8. Make cards and signs.
Old fashioned thank-you cards and signs are simple, sweet gestures and easy to purchase or make yourself. Involving the kids will model appreciation and get them off those screens for a little while: a win-win project.
9. Create care packages.
Assemble a care package for a teacher or another essential worker you know. Items that might be appreciated are activities and distractions for kids like a paint by sticker book that keeps little hands busy, comfy slippers or Crocs to soothe tired feet, a water bottle for staying hydrated and spa products for rare moments of relaxation.
10. Start a meal train.
If you’ve confirmed that meal donations are allowed for the particular group of essential workers you have in mind and want to set up your own deliveries, you can find various online tools, such as Meal Train and Sign Up Genius, to help you organize drop-offs.
Whatever path you take to show appreciation for the people keeping our community fed and functioning, know that following the CDC guidelines to prevent COVID-19 infection is the best way we can lighten the burden on our health-care system and give back to the frontline workers helping us every day.