By Amanda Honigfort
The COVID-19 outbreak has our whole community scrambling and hurting, but our small businesses and those who work in the service industry perhaps more so. Thankfully, we’re seeing much of the community looking for ways to stand up and help.
First and foremost, just staying home and avoiding any contact outside of your household unless absolutely necessary is helpful for keeping the spread of Coronavirus down and getting our region back to normal sooner. However, if you’re looking to help out a bit more, there’s a number of ways to do so – both that involve funds and those that don’t.
The St. Louis Community Foundation and United Way have developed two response funds to benefit all those impacted most by the pandemic – both individuals and small businesses.
Other groups are making mass quantities of hand sanitizer such as 4 Hands Brewery and Hamilton Hospitality. Hamilton Hospitality is giving up to 32 oz away for free, and is producing the sanitizer instead of continuing to operate their restaurants for the time being, while 4 Hands is giving it away in exchange for a donation to their fund for local laid-off service workers. You can find the GoFundMe page for the fund online, it’s one of a number of fundraisers that have cropped up in recent weeks.
There is also a GoFundMe for service workers in the Grove who are impacted, as well as a fund for musicians who can’t earn effectively without the ability to play gigs. The fund was created by Ben Majchrzak (of Native Sound Recording) “to help any and all music and arts-related industry members that need financial assistance.”
That being said, most of the charities in town are seeing a greater than normal financial need, especially those who work with the homeless, domestic violence, hygiene needs, and food shortages need donations.
In addition to money, the Saint Louis Area Diaper Bank is in need of volunteers to pack supply kits, or you can sign up to receive email alerts from the United Way for either urgent or at-home volunteer opportunities.
Similarly, the American Red Cross is experiencing a severe blood shortage and is asking the community to call 1-800-733-2767 to sign up to safely donate blood.
Some of the needed assistance could come from the government. Small businesses and restaurants are calling on the community to petition the local, state and national government to help our service workers.
If you’d prefer to get something useful in exchange for your funds, many small businesses are setting up online sales and offering special shipping or curbside pick-up. Additionally, there are a number of online apparel sales that benefit the community, and a more broad local buy online effort has cropped up.
#314Together is an effort started by The Women’s Creative, Experience Booklet, and @stlgram to support small businesses that are hurting. They are looking for creative ways to support those businesses that are still safe for the community and are selling clothing to support the #314together effort at shop2lu.com.
By Jack is selling official merchandise of many local artists, organizations and businesses, STLstyle also has “flatten the curve” apparel that benefits the St. Louis Community Foundation Gateway Resilience Fund, and there is also a STL Strong tee for sale that is donating proceeds to service workers.
Lastly, you can still eat out – as long as you take it home or have your food delivered, and a number of restaurants are offering take-out options that normally wouldn’t. CurbsideSTL is curating take-it-home options by neighborhood. These restaurants operate on a very thin margin and have already had to lay off some or all of their workers. Most cannot weather many months with no sales.
Some of those restaurants are setting up ways for take-out to do a double good. Grace Meat + Three is offering a to-go Grace Gives Meat + Three plate for $13.50 and giving 15% of each Grace Gives Plate to a furloughed bartender, server, or cook in the St. Louis area. Other restaurants including Salt + Smoke are doing something similar.
No matter the way you choose, there are many ways to help, and together we can all make our community a bit stronger every day.