COVID ‘wake-up call’: Pandemic sparks more Americans to give back to community

NEW YORK — While most people will remember the coronavirus pandemic for its global devastation over the last year, could its lasting legacy be the change in attitude it’s creating? A new survey finds 65 percent of Americans say the pandemic has provided them with a “wake-up call” to reach out to their communities.

The poll of 2,000 people revealed that more than half are giving back through volunteer work. In fact, 52 percent reported volunteering in their communities for the very first time as a result of the circumstances brought on by the pandemic.

Delivering food to essential workers (35%), volunteering to help the elderly or infirm maintain their homes (23%), and volunteering at a food pantry (20%) are among the most common ways respondents are giving back since the start of COVID. However, seven out of ten respondents say, while the effects of COVID-19 on their community made them more eager to volunteer, they’ve hesitated due to safety concerns.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Muse Health Hand Sanitizer, the study also examined the safety precautions that would make these volunteers feel more confident lending a helping hand in their communities.

How safe is volunteering during the pandemic?

Among those who admit they hesitated to volunteer due to safety concerns, 56 percent say concerns over the availability of handwashing and hand sanitizing stations were the most common worry. Other common concerns among this group included whether or not the site would require mask wearing (50%) and whether or not officials would mandate social distancing (44%).

“It’s completely understandable that many feel held back by uncertainty about safety situations at locations where they are interested in volunteering their time,” says Tara Merkle, Senior Director of Marketing for Muse Health, in a statement.

“To avoid anxiety about supplies at job sites – which, in many volunteer and charity situations, may be extremely limited – be sure to bring your own bottle of hand sanitizer to help you and others stay safe.”

Helping out starts at home

For over a third of Americans, the motivation to volunteer started close to home. Thirty-five percent say their primary reason for stepping up was knowing about friends and neighbors in need. Another 17 percent said their friends and neighbors who were already helping out inspired them to do the same. The uptick in volunteering may continue post-pandemic, if what respondents are getting out of their good deeds is any indication.

Seventy-three percent of respondents agreed that while donating money or items to help the community is great, using their hands to get out there and do the work is more fulfilling. Nearly seven in 10 reported that, as more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine, they hope to increase their time spent volunteering.

“It’s commendable, and heartening, to see so many Americans stepping up to lend a helping hand in their communities during this challenging time. That’s why we created the #HandsOnMovement – to celebrate the selfless individuals who are giving back to their communities,” Merkle adds. “Safety precautions like the use of hand sanitizer are going to be key to making volunteering a sustainable reality for as long as the pandemic ensures, so being prepared is critical.”