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How You Can Help St. Louis-Area People In Need During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Paul Granneman donates platelets Nov. 20 in St. Louis. The American Red Cross has said the need for blood donations is 'urgent.'
File Photo | Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio
One way to help those in need is to donate blood, as it is considered an essential service.

Social distancing and stay-at-home orders have some St. Louisans asking: How can I help those who need support while I am at home? Even many volunteer opportunities have been canceled.

But there’s still a need for help. According to the state Department of Labor, 42,000 people in Missouri filed for unemployment last week.

That’s 10 times more than the week before.

Service industry workers, who rely on tips, have been hit particularly hard. That’s why St. Louis resident Stephen Moss, a former server, started STL Virtual Tip Jar

Moss said he hopes the federal stimulus bill and local charities will help out in the future.

“But, right now, in the short term, it’s like people have bills they’ve gotta pay now,” Moss said. “So I think giving opportunities for people to give directly now is important.”

Here’s how the virtual tip jar works: laid off and furloughed workers submit their names and workplaces to get on a list. Supporters can contribute tips directly to people on the list via PayPal, Venmo or Cash App.

In the week since the page started, it has amassed almost 1,000 local workers, mostly in the food sector.

“Who was the barista at the coffee shop you went to every day?” Moss asked. “You can't help everybody, but maybe you can help that one person or a handful of people. I think that's where each of us as individuals at home need to focus.”

Red Cross blood donations

Currently there is an “ongoing critical need” for blood and platelet donations, said Joe Zydlo, a spokesman for the Red Cross.

Since early March, nearly 400 blood drives in Missouri, Arkansas and some parts of Illinois have been canceled. 

Zydlo said that’s a loss of 13,000 donations. 

Since blood and platelets are perishable, a continuous supply is needed. Platelets go to cancer patients; blood goes to trauma treatment.

Many people have scheduled appointments at Red Cross donation centers. Still, Zydlo said, “it’s almost like we’re trying to make up for what we lost,” as the regional Red Cross needs 600 donations a day to meet hospital demands. 

If you want to donate blood, the Red Cross recommends you book an appointment on its website at least two weeks in advance. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has deemed blood donations an essential activity, and Zydlo said there are temperature checks before entering any donation center.

Other ways to help

  • Citizen-led organizations have surfaced to help with nationwide shortages of personal protective equipment for health care workers, including GetusPPE.org, DonatePPE.org and Mask Match. The hashtag #GetMePPE is trending on social media, as N95 masks are especially needed. 
  • The St. Patrick Center, a St. Louis hub for homeless services, has a grocery store wish list to help with the free meals it offers. The donation center is open Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
  • Refer a senior citizen you know who would appreciate a phone call. Southwestern Illinois College staff are checking in on local seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Contact Cheryl Brunsmann, executive director of SWIC’s Programs & Services for Older Persons, at 618-234-4410, ext. 7023, or cheryl.brunsmann@swic.edu.
  • Donate pet food to Stray Rescue of St. Louis’ food pantry for pet owners who might be unable to afford dog or cat food. Click here for the wish list.
  • Send a video, photo or written story to the Missouri Historical Society documenting your experience during the coronavirus pandemic. 

If you have a “how-to-help” activity to add to this list, you can email us at feedback@stlpublicradio.org

Follow Kayla on Twitter: @_kayladrake

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