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Greater opportunities to volunteer during pandemic

Published: Jul. 8, 2020 at 6:17 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -With the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are struggling and in need of a helping hand to get through the rough times. In effect, that means opportunities to help people out has increased and changed.

The United Way of Marathon County had to make some changes to the way they conduct their volunteer opportunities and the pandemic has made the demand for volunteers much greater.

“There’s more of a need in the community, the opportunity to be involved in person is challenging,” United Way Volunteer Engagement Coordinator Krista Mischo said. “So we’re trying to be innovative and find new ways for people to be involved.”

When the pandemic first hit, the United Way saw an influx of volunteers due to many places shutting down and people wanted to help others out. However, social distancing created a challenge for its mission of helping others.

"Now that groups can't meet, we've been having to get very innovative and creative to try and give people remote opportunities or virtual," Mischo said.

Now the United Way has shifted their focus to safe, solo and small group opportunities to provide virtual services like writing letters to front line workers and the elderly, or sewing crafts and thanking small businesses and planting seeds for community gardens.

“I hope that people are benefiting, you know sometimes it’s hard to know if you made a difference but I guess any other work that you do in the end will make it somewhere,” United Way Volunteer Lauren Kaiser said. “It’s not busy work that you’re actually getting to meet some of the needs in the community especially right now with the hunger that we’re facing.”

Although the amount of in-person opportunities has decreased during the pandemic, the Neighbors’ Place in Wausau still has its food pantry open in a drive-up style to allow people to social distance.

“Especially during this time there is a huge need for people with food across the spectrum, young people, old people and we’re just filling a need to make sure people have enough,” Volunteer and President of the Neighbors’ Place Board Michelle Schaefer said.

The United Way is always looking for more volunteers and some of the biggest needs are food donations, shelter needs, and hygiene products.

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