Herb Newell, Executive Director, Shares Ways You Can Help Family Shelters
I’ve always been thankful for the incredible kindness, energy, and generosity shown by our friends over the years. Still, it was a wonderful surprise to receive so many notes and calls offering to help us during this difficult time. Despite having the Covid-19 crisis upend your lives, you’ve been eager and willing to lend a hand to others. That’s why I created the list below.
I hope it will answer your questions about the support Friends of the Homeless of the South Shore needs right now – and in the months ahead. Please call our Weymouth office at 781-340-1604 or text me at 781-413-7018. For more details or to arrange a delivery time.
We Need Your Assistance at a Safe Distance
Most of these suggestions show ways you can help that don’t involve close contact with others. That’s because we’ve had to suspend all of our group volunteer programs in and around our shelters. This includes our furniture bank, tutors and play space volunteers, and our housing “makeovers”. For your health and ours we can’t have people come to our shelters during this time of social distancing.
You can imagine how difficult this situation has been for our staff. Instead of depending on onsite volunteers, they must take on the extra responsibility for whatever needs to be done. Yet, day after day, they continue to show their willingness to help in any way they can. Quite frankly, they can use a lot of prayers as the stress factor has been enormous.
They can also use your help with the following vital tasks and equipment:
1. Virtual Volunteers for Tutoring and Fun
Providing children at the shelter with learning experiences has always been tough. It’s even more challenging in the close quarters caused by the Coronavirus outbreak. But we don’t want them to fall behind in their studies. That’s why we’re looking for virtual tutors for our younger shelter guests.
If you have experience tutoring or teaching others, or would like to give it a try, give us a call at 781-340-1604. All you need is your computer and a Zoom or Skype account and the willingness to help a young student accomplish their learning goals.
We’re also looking for Virtual Volunteers who want to read or tell stories, sing, talk, exercise, or play games with our kids individually or as family units.
2. Mask Making for Adults and Kids
If you’re making face masks from home or have extras to spare, we’d love a few to protect our staff and guests. We’re especially in need of masks that active and young children can actually keep on. I’m sure you’ve experienced that with your kids. What really works?
3. Lawn Mowing and Light Maintenance
Even during the Coronavirus, the grass still grows at our shelters. And it will continue to grow all summer long. You can use your own mower and tools or try ours. Either way, if you’re interested in sharing your lawn maintenance expertise, please call the shelter to set up a time to come by. Of course, we can use this help all summer long!
4. Spring Planting
Here are two great projects for those with green thumbs.
- Window Boxes: Because we don’t want Covid-19 to rob our families of spring flowers, we’re determined to plant them in every window box. We have a generous donor/volunteer from “CityScapes” who will donate flowers and one of our guests is growing flowers from seed. This will make the shelter community look beautiful. It will also be a fun project for each family to care for their own flower box outside their guest rooms.
- Community Garden: It has been my personal dream to have a community garden with vegetables every summer. I have a stand with 150 plants growing from seeds and I’d like to get this underway in the next few weeks. I think it will be a fun project for the guests and staff alike – at the appropriate distance, of course.
5. Data Driven Volunteers
If you have experience keeping a database and a few days you can spare for virtual training, we’d love your help. We will introduce you to our databases and show you how you can use your skills keeping Friends of the Homeless data up to date.
We use three kinds of data:
- Information to keep up to date on our friends and families: who we help, how we help them, and who helps us.
- Data that we need to provide to our donors, grantors, and government about how we help our shelter guests.
- Financial data we need to keep a small nonprofit running.
If you have experience in any of these areas, we’d love your help.
6. Chromebooks or Laptops for Student Distance Learning
Thank you to the Weymouth and Quincy Schools for providing laptops for our students from those schools. Still, some of our children in other school systems do not have their own computers or learning devices. That means they need to do their assignments using the minimal resources in our shelter office; and often that means missing deadlines or falling behind on their study goals.
We know that donating a Chromebook laptop sounds like a lot to ask, but it will make a huge difference to all of us. If you have a laptop that you are not using, would you consider donating it for our students to learn?
Another option: If you have an old laptop that’s gathering dust, you may be able to convert it to one that a student can use. Check out this site to see if an update is possible. Or watch this YouTube video for ideas on how you can make an older laptop computer usable for our students.
Whether it’s new or newly configured, please consider a laptop donation. Then call us at 781-340-1604 to arrange a delivery time.
7. Gift Cards and Check Donations
Gift card and check donations are always welcome in our shelters. If you use gift cards, remember you’ll be supporting local shops experiencing lower sales during this Covid-19 crisis too. And because both types of donations can go through the mail, you’re protecting the staff and guests as well.
Cards and gift checks can be mailed to: Friends of the Homeless of the South Shore, PO Box 202, North Weymouth, MA 02191.
8. Other Covid-19 Supplies
Like everyone else, we’re in need of:
- Face masks (especially child-size)
- Purell or other hand sanitizer (must be 60% alcohol or higher)
- Rubbing alcohol (must be 70% alcohol)
- Disinfectants or disinfectant wipes (Clorox, Lysol, etc.)
- Soap and other hygiene products
- Toilet paper
- Paper towels
We also need games, crafts, and art supplies to keep kids of all ages active (from infants to high school seniors). Sidewalk chalk is super! Gooey messy stuff, not so much …
And, of course, we’re always in need of diapers for our youngest guests.
If you’d like to donate any of these items, please call our Weymouth office at 781-340-1604 to arrange a delivery day and time.
Get Ready! Summer Projects in the Queue (potentially July 1, 2020)
Once we’re able to get out and about again, our shelters will have a lot of ‘catch-up’ projects to do. We expect to be able to start hosting volunteer groups starting July 1, 2020. Here’s what we’ll need:
Maintenance Projects and Room Makeovers
Do you have a few hours, a day, or a week to lend us a hand? We would love to talk to you about hosting you or your group at our facilities in Norwell or Weymouth. At Friends, we need your help with things like cutting up and moving the tree that fell last winter – and fixing the trailer it fell on!
We also need help cleaning out and remodeling one of our guest rooms. There is so much to do and so few hands to do it these days!
We’re looking for a group that might want to sponsor a dumpster rental – or a trash disposal company that could donate one – so we can clear out unneeded items from the Furniture Bank this summer. Of course your group could also join us to help organize the furniture and demolish and discard the unneeded items.
Nope! It’s not a hot tub. But our “Summer Soak” is a refreshing volunteer opportunity for youths and young adults. Simply put, it’s a “car wash” for the siding of our shelter units that removes built up dirt due to passing traffic during the winter. Volunteers will:
— take down the flower boxes and move outside furniture, building by building
— power wash the outside of the buildings until they are sparkling clean
— move everything back to where it was
This is a great volunteer project for people who don’t mind getting a little wet in the hot summer sun!
Finally my special thanks to …
Our Staff and Volunteers
The dedicated “Band of Brothers” (actually, mostly Sisters) who step up to serve homeless families every day – Covid-19 notwithstanding!
Emergency Sanitizing Service
Rev. Dennis Scott came out of retirement to lead the crew that is helping us stay squeaky clean during the Covid-19 emergency. They expertly clean and sanitize our common areas every day and guest rooms once a week. So we all have one less chore to worry about!
North River Community Church
They generously donated Easter Dinners to our guest families. And each dinner was delivered with 4 new storage tubs to help families organize their rooms so our new sanitizing effort would be more effective.
Norwell Food Pantry, Norwell Schools, Weymouth Food Pantry, Weymouth Schools
Covid-19 has put a strain on our family’s food budgets. These wonderworkers are providing extra food for our children and parents at a time of great need!
Dan Hoskins, Mike Berry, Josh Houston, Peter Scanlon, and Nathan Scott
We thank Dan for helping us restore a fence with damage at our Norwell location so kids could play safely. Mike made an emergency electrical repair. Josh of Huston Construction Solutions of Raynham, MA covered a leaking roof after a windstorm. Peter fixed a badly broken door. And Nathan helped us set up computers and large screen TVs for Skype and Zoom meetings. All keeping proper distancing in mind, of course.