Editor's note: This post was last updated on March 21, 2020
While we all do our best to stay informed and take other precautions to slow the spread of the pandemic (see a joint message from regional health care providers HERE), the situation also calls on us to think about ways we can support those in our community whose situations are more vulnerable. To that end, we've designed this post to capture and share how community members are going about or can go about actively caring and supporting our neighbors.
Quick Navigation: Support Food Banks | Be Neighborly | Funding for Small Businesses | Resources for Artists | Resources for Underserved Populations | Food for Students on Free and Reduced Lunch | Resources for Nonprofit Leaders | Resources for Workers Impacted by COVID-19 | COVID-19 Mask Maker Challenge
Note: We will update this post with local opportunities and resources as they become available. You can submit those HERE or at the end of this post.
Support Your Local Food Banks
We came across this message from Bret Raymond, co-founder of The Pack Shack in Cave Springs, who highlights this need succinctly.
Good Afternoon - We've all been listening to the news with a mixture of curiosity and concern. What can easily get lost in all the reporting is the impact this situation is having on our hungry neighbors. Food banks and pantries are seeing skyrocketing demand, but there are fewer volunteers (elderly people who are wisely staying home). With more and more school closings, kids are missing out on breakfast and lunch. Also, many working people who struggle to make ends meet are having an even harder time right now. The need for meals to feed kids and families is critical.
NWA Food Bank
Northwest Arkansas Food Bank is working with area schools to provide pantry staples to help augment meal preparation services. These items are provided at no charge to the schools and their families.
The food bank is needing volunteers to come to their warehouse to help them pack food boxes that can be distributed to those in immediate need. If you have not traveled to an impacted area in the last 14 days, nor are you experiencing symptoms of illness, you can sign up on their website:
http://ow.ly/z9CK50yMR6U. All volunteers must sign up online (the shifts are posted) and sign a waiver to keep everyone safe.
The food bank is placing orders for multiple truckloads of food to stock up in this time of heightened need. At this time, their most urgent need is financial donations to fund these food purchases. They have established the COVID-19 NWA Response Fund to cover the costs of these efforts. Donations can be made to the COVID19 NWA Response Fund giving page. 100% of funds will remain local and be used to cover costs associated with local COVID-19 response efforts. You can donate HERE.
Pack Shack is inviting people to donate funds to the Be Neighborly Food Drive that will be used to purchase a broad selection of much needed items, including peanut butter, canned chicken and tuna, rice, pasta, pasta sauce, canned vegetables, and/or other items that will be given free of charge to schools and other local organizations serving our neighbors in need during this critical time. You can donate HERE.
Little Free Pantry
Many people have noted that this is an excellent opportunity to find and help stock a little free pantry with non-perishable food items and toiletries. You can find a list of free pantries by visiting http://mapping.littlefreepantry.org/.
There is a running thread of information and volunteers organizing on Facebook HERE.
The Community Blood Center of the Ozarks needs at least 200 donations a day to supply local hospitals with blood, but COVID-19 is affecting supply and causing a shortage. Giving blood is a vital way to serve the community and they have put processes in place to ensure your donation can be made safely. Visit http://www.cbco.org/ to make an appointment.
Check on Your Friends, Family and Elderly Neighbors
The situation is overwhelming for many and while social distancing is paramount, the social isolation and anxiety can have profound impacts on our mental well-being. Regularly check-in with friends, family, and elderly neighbors (call, text, email, video conference, a handwritten note, etc.)—they may be afraid to ask for help or connection.
Join a Facebook Group
NWA Mutual Aid Facebook Group: NWA Mutual Aid is a grassroots project seeking to respond to needs of our community through community participation and assistance. During the current COVID-19 Public Health Crisis, they recognize that many individuals in the community are experiencing access needs — especially folks experiencing illness, are elderly, or are otherwise immunocompromised. They are working to coordinate individuals who need access services with individuals who have volunteered to responsibly facilitate access to services. Please use this form (bit.ly/MutualAidNWARequest) to request these volunteer services and distribute it freely to those in Northwest Arkansas.
Volunteers are signing up to serve others in the capacity in which they are able. This includes grocery trips on behalf of individuals in need, pet care, yard work, etc. They are NOT facilitating direct monetary or material assistance at this time. Volunteers are simply going out into the community so that those at risk can remain safely at home but still access food, prescriptions, etc. They have an open-access community form to facilitate more direct forms of aid and support that can be found here: bit.ly/MutualAidNWASelfServe
To volunteer and/or be included on future volunteer opportunities, please join the group and complete the volunteer sign-up form which can be found HERE.
Support Small Businesses
We all know the toll on local small businesses that rely on foot traffic has the potential to be devastating, we encourage you to think creatively and do what you can to support local businesses. With local business owners stepping up and doing things like this...the least we can do is figure out ways to pay it forward. Here are a few ways to show your support:
- Buy a gift card: You can purchase gift cards from businesses across the region HERE. *Small businesses are encouraged to register.
- Shop Online
- Shop Over the Phone
- Leave a Review
- Promote Social Media
- Subscribe to e-Newsletters
Local Food Delivery Options
Leisurlist recently published a comprehensive list of local food/grocery delivery options, which you can find HERE.
Small Business Owners
The Small Business Administration has an "Economic Injury Disaster Loan" program that allows for working capital loans of up to $2 million to help businesses suffering a temporary loss of revenue during the COVID-19 outbreak. Startup Junkie as developed a guide for navigating the process, which you can find
Gov. Asa Hutchinson recently announced additional sources of funding and incentives to be directed toward Arkansas businesses and non-profit organizations being impacted by COVID-19.
Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Funding
HUD authorized Arkansas to do a "set aside" of its CDBG allotment for COVID-19 relief. The governor has authorized $12 million of federal funding relief to go out in the form of loans to the companies and non-profits impacted. Relief to hospitals and businesses essential to getting through this situation will be given first priority. Questions regarding funding through this program can be directed to COVID19.firstname.lastname@example.org or (501) 682-1121 or (800) ARKANSAS.
Governor's Quick Action Closing Fund
$4 million from the Quick Action Closing Fund has been allocated to support a bridge-loan program providing loans up to $250,000 to assist mid-sized companies to avoid layoffs, make payroll, provide working capital, and allow companies to stay in operation. Priority will be given to companies that are in the immediate supply chain for essential goods and services.
More information can be found at https://www.arkansasedc.com/covid19 and any questions regarding this funding can be directed to COVID19.email@example.com or (501) 682-1121 or (800) ARKANSAS.
Facebook will be offering $100M in cash grants and ad credits to help during this challenging time. Sign up for updates HERE.
In addition, the AEDC has compiled a list of programs and resources for businesses and employees that they will continue to update as additional resources become available: https://www.arkansasedc.com/covid19
Share Information About Resources
- This list is specifically designed to serve freelance artists, and those interested in supporting the independent artist community. Check it out HERE.
For Underserved Populations
If you are experiencing things like a sudden loss of income or are struggling to find needed resources, Hark at the Center for Collaborative Care is here to help. Connectors are ready to assist you with a free and confidential needs assessment and build you a customized resource plan of up-to-date community resources. You will also have access to financial assistance programs available, including Hark's Catalyst Fund. The assessment takes only minutes, you can find it HERE.
United Way of Northwest Arkansas has resources that can help those in need and a direct link to arkansas211.org. If you need assistance finding food, paying housing bills, accessing free childcare or other essential services, visit HERE.
For Students on Free and Reduced Lunch
The Single Parent Scholarship Fund published an online resource guide that details what the public schools are doing for students on free and reduced lunch during the school closures. You can find the guide HERE.
Several local restaurants will be complementing the efforts of the local school districts to continue to feed students on free and reduced lunch.
A local Facebook group, NWA Free Food for Kids, is helping to spread the word about where families can find free lunches while schools in Arkansas are closed due to the coronavirus. Join the group HERE.
You can find a running list of locations HERE.
For Nonprofits Leaders
Arkansas Community Foundation is accepting proposals for mini-grants for non profit organizations assisting in COVID-19 relief. The organization will award $1,000 grants to organizations responding to the immediate needs of vulnerable populations affected by the virus, including any organization with 501c3 status including churches, hospitals, schools, or government entities based anywhere in Arkansas. Apply for a grant or donate to the fund HERE.
There is an active Facebook Group called the NWA Nonprofit Alliance made up of nonprofit leaders throughout the region working to address the challenges presented by the pandemic together. You can request to join the group HERE.
Pure Charity recently hosted a webinar and shared some insights from their local nonprofit partners to understand the scope of the impact. They also gathered some best practices on how nonprofit leaders can move forward. That slide deck can be found HERE.
For Workers Impacted by COVID-19
If you become separated from employment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may file an unemployment insurance claim through the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services (DWS). The Governor ordered some important changes to unemployment insurance. His order:
- Waives the one-week waiting period to receive unemployment, meaning that applicants are immediately eligible to receive the benefits.
- Eliminates the requirement that applicants apply in person. Now everything can be done online, HERE.
For Bartenders and Service Workers
The USBG National Charity Foundation has launched a Bartender Emergency Assistance Program. To be eligible, you must be a bartender or the spouse or child of a bartender. See HERE for more details.
The Restaurant Workers Community Foundation has established a Restaurant Workers COVID19 Crisis Relief Fund for restaurant workers. Learn more HERE.
NWA Virtual Tip Jar: Northwest Arkansas has also launched a virtual tip jar for service workers impacted by restaurant/bar closures and lost hours. The Google spreadsheet includes Paypal and Venmo info for those impacted. You can find the spreadsheet
Jobs for Displaced Workers
While we don't have the capacity to provide a comprehensive list of opportunities, here are a couple of places we are aware of seeking immediate help:
NLMG Services is a service provider for several organizations and entities where they take pre-packaged food items and consolidate them into meal kits for consumption by victims of disasters. Their current project will be helping to provide food to those affected by the COVID-19 outbreak at both a professional and personal level. Apply HERE
Easybins (a local grocery delivery service) has also seen a huge uptick in demand for their services and is currently hiring. Apply HERE.
Masks for Healthcare Workers
Arkansas Arts & Fashion Forum is recruiting designers and seamstresses who would like to donate their time (remotely) to make masks for our hospitals and medical clinics. Sign up to volunteer HERE.
What are other ways we can help support one another? Let us know.