Tips for caring, helping, getting by

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Here are resources and creative ideas to help others, and yourself, during this time of coronavirus-induced uncertainty and boredom. 

• Even in the pandemic, United Way of Greater Portland can connect you with one-time or long-lasting volunteer opportunities. Look at the website for the  UWGP Volunteer Newsletter Special Edition, Covid-19 Resource Guide, published instead of the monthly Volunteer Engagement Newsletter.

• Still haven’t filed your 2019 taxes? Have questions or need free help? Greater Portland CA$H is a part of a state-wide effort working to help Mainers by: Creating Assets, Saving and Hope. The organization also hosts classes, trainings and workshops offering everything from budgeting basics to a 10-hour homebuying course. cashmaine.org/class-listings/

• Many parents are concerned that children are falling behind in school, or are not getting the at-home academic support they need. Look up the Learn to Be Foundation which offers free online tutoring in math, language arts and sciences.

• The Opportunity Alliance is holding a one day virtual fundraiser on June 4th, 2020 for RAISE – to support their mission, celebrate community, and to help  meet the growing needs of our neighbors. opportunityalliance.org/raise/

• Portland restaurant delivery services are working full-tilt these days, but shout out to hyper-local 2DineIn.com for their 2DineIn Frontline Support and Community Outreach program. Diners can contribute as little as one dollar when ordering and 100% of all funds donated are used to buy food from a participating restaurant and donated to an organization in need.

• The Greater Portland COVID-19 Community Relief Fund. Spearheaded by United Way and a group of six major donors, the goal is to support urgent needs. Visit unitedwaygp.org/covid. All of your gift will directly help our most vulnerable neighbors. 

• In Maine, 211maine.org is a comprehensive umbrella for everything from how to file unemployment to assistance with substance abuse during the pandemic. For federal resources go to benefits.gov

 

• Unitil created the Unitil Customer Assistance & Recovery Effort (U-CARE) Fund and has donated $150,000 to Community Action Programs. Call The Opportunity Alliance (Portland Region, ME) 207-553-5900 for information and help. 

• FrontLine WarmLine is a state launched program to meet the needs of health care workers, first responders, and others on the front line. Staffed by volunteer mental health professionals, the service offers counseling on coping with anxiety, stress and grief associated with the pandemic. Call 207-221-8196, 8am – 9pm daily. Not a frontline worker? Call 207-771-WARM.

• The Good Shepherd Food Bank updates a growing list of largely volunteer-led food pantries and meal sites at 2pm daily at gsfb.org. 

• Help for Pet Owners: RedRover Relief Emergency Boarding grants. If you or someone you know needs help taking care of an animal because of a COVID-19 hospitalization, or if the pet owner is recovering at home and unable to care for their pet, RedRover has created an assistance program. These grants will cover the cost of up to two weeks of pet boarding. Help is also available for emergency veterinary care at RedRover Relief Urgent Care grants. Go to redrover.org for more information.

• Go to FoodPantries.org and search Portland, Maine for a list of local pantries and logistics for each. Lists for other Maine cities are also available. Call ahead to confirm information.

• Covid Coach offers exercises, resources and tracking for dealing with isolation, unemployment, anxiety and other stressors fueled by the pandemic. Developed by the National Center for PTSD/US Department of Veteran Affairs, the app is free on all platforms.

• Canceling your fundraiser? Many non-profits host annual events in the Spring and early summer but have had to cancel due to the virus. Getfullyfunded.com offers practical and realistic ways to salvage your fundraiser.

• Major lenders and automakers are helping car shoppers with Coronavirus Car Payment Relief Programs. With local dealerships now open for business, be sure to compare offers beyond a 90-day payment deferral for new and leasedcars.

• Maine Fish Direct went Facebook live on March 22 with a win-win offer to Help Maine’s Fisherman while Feeding Your Family. Individual fisherman, as well as Hawkes Lobster and Stoney Brook Lobster Pound update posts often with daily catches, how to pre-order, prices and where in Maine they will be. See their Facebook page for the stunning photos alone. For additional options including shipping, visit Maine’s Working Waterfront – Seafood Connect at unitedfishermenfoundation.com/find-a-harvester. 

• CSAs offering delivery to Portland have been sold out for months, but debuting this week is Maine Market Box. Operating like a meal delivery subscription service such as Fresh or Blue Apron, this Biddeford start-up has mostly local fruit and produce, much of it certified organic, from partnering farms. Grocery add-ons such as eggs, cheese and Union Bagel are also available. Reach out to jillian@mainemarketbox.com or visit the user-friendly website. 

Nextdoor.com is a platform to chat with neighbors about everything from dentist recommendations to fox sightings to city council meetings. Registration identifies your specific Greater Portland neighborhood, keeping postings relevant. Also functioning as a virtual flea market, household items, errand services and yard work assistance are often offered for free. 

• Working with their suppliers, resourceful restaurant owners have incorporated grocery, dairy, pantry staples and fruit and produce items for convenient retail sale. Local 188 Restaurant and Lounge on Congress St. in Portland has morphed into Grocer 188 with impressive offerings, including Charmin toilet paper for $2.50 a roll. The list, prices and ordering instructions can be found at local188.com. 

• Only the People Save the People is an emergency fund used to purchase basic survival goods for, “…the people most marginalized in this crisis, with the least access to other forms of aid.” Set up as a gofundme.com campaign (People’s Emergency Fund), the page names people accountable for ensuring donations are transparently distributed, along with the details and mandates of the organization. 

• While jokes circulate about getting three weeks to a gallon of gas, AARP has published a list of auto insurance companies automatically issuing refunds or credits to drivers current on their payments. Each company has its own provisions, which must be approved state-by-state. Contact your agent for specifics.

• Be on the lookout for the Masked Crusaders. Well-intended under 20-somethings (word on the street is they are a church youth group) are distributing homemade cloth masks to those not wearing them. Gently tossing them to people at grocery stores, they have given away over 150 masks thus far. 

• Life coach Deb Bergeron, owner of Ocean of Possibilities and the founder of 100+ Women   Who Care – Southern Maine, is offering pay-what-you-can coaching via Zoom. “We’re all in this together,” Bergeron said. “I am here to help you find strength, calm and optimism in even the most turbulent times.” Call her at 207-797-9007.

•Join your local Buy Nothing Group via Facebook. Part of a worldwide movement established in 2013 in Washington state, buynothingproject.org encourages members to buy nothing, give freely, and share creatively. The Portland North group has 293 members, many who are posting things such as a willingness to share toilet paper after closing a business, shop for elderly neighbors and sing opera outside an open window. Overseen by an administrator, the FAQ section on the website addresses concerns and offers ways to participate safely. 

• Grocery stores, essential retailers and service providers are offering business hours exclusively for seniors and those at high risk. Thankfully, there are too many to mention, but call your go-to stores for up-to-date details. And don’t forget grocery delivery options.

• While not new, coursera.org collaborates with nearly 200 universities and companies to offer more than 2,000 free online courses. One popular selection, “The Science of Well-Being,” is a 20-hour class offered by Yale and taught by psychology professor Laurie Santos. Even with more than 1.5 million classmates, you’ll have a front-row seat.  

• Dining delivery services are helping us help our restaurants. On Saturdays, DoorDash is waiving delivery fees for orders over $15. Uber Eats charges nothing for delivery from most restaurants for deliveries over specific amounts, or includes free items. Grubhub has set up a community relief fund where you can donate your change to charitable organizations supporting local restaurants and drivers impacted by COVID-19. Portland’s 2DineIn promotes individual restaurants when they offer discounts or have special pricing. 

• It’s grassroots, but a group of high school friends are “Leafing it Alone” and sprucing up random yards, each in a different area of Portland. They leave notes afterward, asking homeowners to make a donation to the Full Plates, Full Potential emergency fund. The organization, which works to keep Maine students fed, states that while schools are closed during the pandemic, 80,000 children will struggle to access meals. Visit fullplates.org to donate.

• Facebook is promoting a low-tech way to help called Isolated Communication. The goal is to help neighbors by giving them three pieces of construction paper to post in a visible window. Green signals everything is fine, yellow means help is needed for an errand, and red is for an emergency.  

• The challenge of keeping younger children occupied can be eased by setting up a daily virtual story circle, where adults take turns reading and showing illustrations via FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, Facebook Live or any other widely available video conferencing service.

— Compiled by Natalie Ladd