This article has been updated.

As thousands of San Antonians practice social distancing and work from home to prevent further spread of the coronavirus, many are looking for volunteer and charity opportunities to help those most affected.

While senior citizens with underlying health conditions are the most at risk of dying from COVID-19, low-income families are the most at risk of suffering economically from the secondary impacts of school shutdowns and cuts to work hours. The City of San Antonio, Bexar County, nonprofits, and corporations are ramping up awareness of where some of the community’s greatest needs lie.

Volunteering amid a viral outbreak is tricky: how do you help while maintaining a six-foot buffer with people? Before considering volunteer opportunities, officials encourage residents to consider their own health (make sure you don’t have symptoms) and the health of those around you. Those who live with a senior citizen may want to donate to a cause or connect others to resources rather than volunteer in person. Volunteers should continue to wash their hands, avoid touching their face, and maintain distance from others.

Charitable organizations are technically allowed to operate under the new Stay Home, Work Safe order that took effect countywide at midnight on Tuesday. However, many nonprofits – including the San Antonio Food Bank – have slowed volunteer activities to avoid spreading the virus.

“The first way people can help is to stop freaking out,” said Manny Pelaez (D8), noting the over-buying of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. “The amount of panic that is spread is actually counteracting all the good that we’re trying to do.”

The second, Palaez added, “donations online never hurt anybody.”

And while residents are at home, it’s the perfect time to go through their things to put together a box of items they don’t need and make a trip to Goodwill or Salvation Army, he said.

Pelaez is part of an informal working group on Council including Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) and Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan (D2) tasked by Mayor Ron Nirenberg to make sure Council district offices become (at least digitally) connection hubs for neighbors who want to help neighbors. Council staff can also help connect residents with resources such as emergency child care.

“One of our biggest needs right now is identifying seniors in our communities who need food,” Pelaez said, along with other chores like taking out the trash or walking a dog.

These are things that Gonzales’ office has been doing for years anyway, she said, “but now there’s an even greater need … and workload [for her staff].”

Many low-income families and seniors don’t have access to or familiarity with the internet, Gonzales said, “so it’s a matter of calling to check up on them.”

Several Council members are currently coordinating volunteer opportunities, she said. Some field offices are closed, but City Hall office lines are listed on the City’s website and most Council members can be contacted through Facebook and Twitter.

SACRD.org, initiated by the City’s faith-based liaison and volunteers, has an extensive list and map of assistance providers people can contact for help. SA2020 recently posted this helpful guide for what to do in your neighborhood. The nonprofit also compiled a website, weisgreater.org, to track the work being done across the county toward mitigating the public health crisis.

Here’s an overview of ways you can help – some involve leaving your home (with hand sanitizer), but there are plenty of ways to help from the comfort of your home.

Act and Donate

  • Donate digitally.
    • The Big Give, the annual citywide fundraising day that usually takes place in the spring, is postponed until September. In the meantime, at the request of Nirenberg, it established an emergency relief fundraising hub to “assist with the raising of critical funds for nonprofits during this time of exceptional need,” according to its website. Organizations are encouraged to register here.
    • COVID-19 Response Fund, administered by the San Antonio Area Foundation and United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County, will help nonprofits that address the impact of work lost or reduced due to the novel coronavirus and that provide economically vulnerable populations’ immediate needs.
  • Box meals for kids and senior citizens, join the mobile pantry.
    • The San Antonio Food Bank is boxing hundreds of meals for families across 16 counties in Southwest Texas and delivering them to schools, Pre-K 4 SA centers, and City Parks and Recreation Department community centers. After a brief volunteer hiatus, the Food Bank is streamlining shift opportunities and you can be put on a waitlist. It’s still accepting donations here.
    • Meals on Wheels San Antonio is pausing volunteer activities, but donations are encouraged.
  • Donate blood.
    • The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center is accpeting appointments online or via phone 210-731-5590.
  • Drop off diapers, sanitary products.
    • The Texas Diaper Bank needs diapers, menstrual pads, and incontinence products. “Because of COVID-19, the number of families seeking support from the Texas Diaper Bank has skyrocketed,” according to a press release.

Every day brings new developments and decisions by government and public health leaders to control the local coronavirus outbreak. We strive to be a trustworthy news source for all in the community–especially during this tumultuous time.

You rely on us for credible reporting, and we rely on readers like you to support our nonprofit newsroom. Can we count on you?

Our reporters are risking a lot to be on the streets chronicling this unprecedented crisis and its impact on our health care systems, local economy, and daily lives. We've been asking our readers to show support for this important public service by making a monthly donation or a one-time gift in whatever amount you can afford.

These donations are helping offset the loss of advertising revenue we normally rely on from local businesses. Can we count on you?

  • Help out homeless shelters/resource centers, make hygiene kits.
    • Haven for Hope, the largest homeless shelter in Bexar County, has paused volunteer activities but is still accepting donations. The City’s Department of Human Services (DHS), South Alamo Regional Alliance for the Homeless, and other homeless service organizations have created a volunteer sign-up form to direct help where it’s needed most. Click here to view.
    • DHS is enhancing its homeless outreach team efforts and they need more hygiene kits (including hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, soap, a bottle of water, socks, and snacks) to deliver. Contact Morjoriee.White@sanantonio.gov or 210.207.8197 for more information on how to help. Kits or supplies can be dropped off at your nearest SAPD SAFFE substation.
  • Donate sanitizer/cleaning supplies.
    • The City is accepting donations only from businesses and commercial enterprises of unopened cleaning supplies to include hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, nitrile gloves, and bleach. These supplies will support our first responders and public-facing services. To donate please email COVID19.cleaningsupplies@sanantonio.gov.
  • Foster or adopt a homeless pet.

Other Resources

  • Anyone can call 211 to be connected to United Way’s area information center 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • The City’s COVID-19 hotline is available at 210.207.5779 or by emailing COVID-19@sanantonio.gov. It’s open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Have a volunteer or donation opportunity? Email iris@rivardreport.com. We’ll try to keep this page as up-to-date as possible.

Iris Dimmick

Iris Dimmick

Senior reporter Iris Dimmick covers City Hall, politics, development, and more. Contact her at iris@rivardreport.com