SALT LAKE CITY — In what has been a tough year for most, a lot of people are looking for ways to give back this Giving Tuesday with the holiday season finally here. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to strain the health care system and the economy, it seems donations and volunteers are needed now more than ever.
While the need for help is there, it can be difficult to find ways to give back amid a global crisis that limits contact with each other in order to limit the spread of the virus — both Intermountain Healthcare and University of Utah Health have put a temporary pause on accepting volunteer applications until COVID-19 cases decrease.
However, there are still plenty ways to help out. Here are a handful of Utah services and charities to consider donating time, money or resources to this holiday season.
The Utah State Hospital
Prior to the pandemic, the Utah State Hospital had more than 300 volunteers per college semester — now, that number is down to about 20 in order to follow COVID-19 health guidelines.
“It’s been hard for the volunteers and for us, we love having them and they love coming,” said Cami Roundy, director of volunteer services at the hospital. She added that there is a waiting list of about 100 volunteers eager to come back and serve once COVID-19 conditions allow it.
For the about 320 patients at the hospital, the pandemic has taken its toll, Roundy said. Since March, all visits have been conducted virtually and most recreational activities have been canceled because of COVID-19.
“They’ve been pretty much here the whole time without visitors and a lot to do,” she said.
One thing the hospital is looking forward to is its annual Forgotten Patient Christmas Project, where community members or businesses can sponsor patients that would otherwise be forgotten due to a lack of family or other circumstances. The sponsors then go Christmas shopping from their patient’s wishlist.
But with a lack of volunteers and COVID-19 restrictions, it will be a little different than years past. Roundy explained sponsors are not allowed to bring prewrapped gifts into the facility because of safety concerns, so gifts are usually wrapped at a supervised event. However, this year, that can’t happen.
Even so, receiving gifts specially chosen for each of them will be a highlight for patients, she said.
“I think it will be the bright point to their year and give them something to look forward to and have a great time and know that they’re thought about,” Roundy said.
While Roundy is confident the hospital will get enough sponsors by Christmas, she said they usually have enough sponsors by early December. That hasn’t been the case year, with about 60 patients still in need of a sponsor.
The Utah Office of Public Guardian
The Utah Office of Public Guardian provides services for adults unable to care for themselves and is accepting donations of cash or gift cards for staff to purchase needed items and gifts for these individuals.
Those interested in donating can send checks or gift cards to:
Utah Office of Public Guardian
195 N. 1950 West
Salt Lake City, UT 84116
Anyone with questions can email [email protected] or call 801-538-8255.
Utah Food Bank
The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation will match all Giving Tuesday donations (up to $25,000) to the The Utah Food Bank, which distributed more than 44 million meals last year statewide, essentially doubling your contribution.
Volunteers are also still accepted, with several health precautions put in place.
Tuesday also marked the first day of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ #LightTheWorld initiative, aimed at spreading joy and service during the holiday season.
This year, participants can sign up for service prompts sent via text for ideas on how they can serve during the pandemic. Tuesday’s prompt asked users to donate to a local charity or volunteer at a trusted nonprofit. Participants are also asked to share their experience on social media, so others can consider joining in too.
Those looking for other volunteer opportunities in their community can visit the church’s website JustServe.org where people can find service projects in their area.
United Way of Salt Lake
United Way of Salt Lake, a local charity focused on creating lasting solutions for those struggling educationally, facing poverty and poor health, is also accepting donations and volunteers during the pandemic. Volunteers can find a number of service opportunities, with some able to be done remotely.
Salt Lake City Mission
How are you helping others during the pandemic? Tell us in the comments below.