How volunteering in Butler County can help during the coronavirus shutdown

Abby Johnson lifted herself out of a funk by volunteering to create greeting cards that accompany meals for medically fragile patients. Butler County United Way’s website can connect people to volunteering opportunities that can help others while also brightening the volunteers’ days. PROVIDED
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Abby Johnson lifted herself out of a funk by volunteering to create greeting cards that accompany meals for medically fragile patients. Butler County United Way’s website can connect people to volunteering opportunities that can help others while also brightening the volunteers’ days. PROVIDED

Volunteer opportunities are growing in Butler County through concerns about the coronavirus and its affect on residents’ lives, and many are coming up with unique ways to help.

Butler County United Way is continuing to update its website, bc-unitedway.org, that listed various options for people wanting to serve as volunteers during the coronavirus crisis.

Margaret S. “Mag” Baker, the president & CEO of the agency, said people should watch that website and its volunteer portal because more opportunities to help others will appear there soon, including ways to volunteer “virtually” online.

The local efforts have even inspired people elsewhere.

Abby Johnson, 24, recently moved to Seattle a few weeks and knew almost nobody there, so she felt gloomy. But then, her aunt, Kristen Smith, a prevention coordinator with Envision Partnerships in Butler County, recommended she consider volunteering to help people. Days earlier, Smith had read an article in the Journal-News that mentioned the United Way site.

Johnson cried during parts of the conversation with Smith. Afterward, Smith was inspired to send her a link to the United Way volunteer opportunities in her area with a quote from the newspaper article about the emotional benefits volunteers receive from their acts of kindness.

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“Less than an hour later she called me back, her voice had changed — you could literally hear hope as she explained how she was signed up next weekend to package meals and how they needed people to make birthday cards on index cards,” Smith wrote about the experience. “It was a match made in heaven.”

Johnson said the experience has been a gift for her, as she makes brightly colored greeting cards that accompany meals that are delivered to medically vulnerable people.

“Right now, more than ever, they have a lot of clients, during this crisis,” Johnson said.

As it turned out, Johnson grew up making homemade cards.

“It was a requirement by my mother that we make birthday cards for any family member’s birthday, or a friend, or anything like that,” said Johnson, a structural engineer. “So it was a good way to channel childhood memories and happier times, and also be helping others at the same time.”

Johnson recommends others volunteer in ways that they can maintain physical distancing, for themselves and others.

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“Every time I’m working on it, it feels like there’s a way to be helping, even if you aren’t a medical worker during this time, or anything like that,” she said. “And when you feel like you’re helping others, it’s almost like I’m helping myself in a way, because I know that I can still do good,” even while cooped up at home.

Baker said the United Way has some volunteer opportunities now, with more to come.

“We’ve got on our website, we’ve got some folks who are making masks for nursing homes,” using kits to make them, Baker said.

“At first we didn’t do the card thing, but I think we probably will” locally, Baker said. “We just weren’t sure whether it was OK to send cards into the nursing homes, and how they felt about that kind of stuff, so we needed to make sure that we vetted that.”

“People are doing some creative things.”

The agency now “is looking into how we can do some virtual volunteer things, and just keep people busy, and off their minds.” she said. “But the biggest thing now has been making masks for health-care workers and front-line people.”

Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted on Friday recommended students and others write to veterans who are living in one of the state’s two Ohio Veterans Homes in Sandusky and Georgetown.

“It’s an opportunity for you to serve those who served us,” he said.

The nearest home is in Georgetown: Ohio Veterans Homes, Letters for Veterans, 2003 Veterans Blvd., Georgetown, OH 45121.

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