Home Donors, Volunteers Organizations Volunteers needed in Rockford: Here's how you can help during the COVID-19 pandemic – Rockford Register Star

Volunteers needed in Rockford: Here's how you can help during the COVID-19 pandemic – Rockford Register Star

9 min read

Food banks, blood centers see increased need amid pandemic

Andrea V. Watson
| Rockford Register Star

ROCKFORD — The Northern Illinois Food Bank needs more volunteers to keep up with the increased number of families seeking assistance during the coronavirus pandemic.

Carl Adrignola, a retired registered nurse, volunteers two to three times a week at the Winnebago Community Market at Northern Illinois Food Bank’s Northwest Center, 765 Research Parkway.

On Thursday he helped load pre-packaged food boxes into cars during the drive-thru distribution. 

“My future is secure, I have finances so working as a nurse for 45 years I was used to helping people I wanted to continue doing that,” he said. “When I retired I got to thinking, ‘I don’t want to take this for granted, I’m one of the lucky ones.’”

Courtney Oakes, the Winnebago County Market Manager for Northern Illinois Food Bank, said she appreciates everyone who steps up to serve the community, but it’s not enough.

“We always see a surge of volunteers around the holidays, and we love it but as soon as the New Year hits, we see that drop,” she said. “Right now we’re really hurting for volunteers and at this location those who can lift heavier boxes and load into people’s cars.”

Since the pandemic, the market feeds, on average, 1,500 households a week. Before COVID-19 it was 800. 

According to Northern Illinois Food Bank, more than 40% more meals are being provided monthly, compared to last year. That’s approximately 300,000 each day across 13 counties. Food bank officials expect food insecurity to grow significantly in the coming months as some families choose between paying bills and buying groceries during the winter months.

“Many have been disproportionately impacted, particularly those experiencing layoffs and furloughs in industries most impacted by COVID-19 and do not have savings to fall back on,” according to the Northern Illinois Food Bank. “Feeding America projects an increase of 62% in food insecurity in our 13-county service area, which means nearly 200,000 more people will be facing hunger and 1 in 6 children are at risk.”

COVID has affected the organization’s volunteer base like many other charities. 

“Volunteering is the most impactful thing you can do outside of making a financial gift. Volunteers are essential to our operations, packing food at our warehouse or at our outdoor food distributions.”

The food bank has volunteer opportunities each week for more than 900 volunteers. Groups, individuals and families are encouraged to help.

Safety measures are in place. Everyone is required to take a temperature check, wear face masks and sign a health waiver form. 

In Rockford, volunteers are needed for food sorting, packing and distribution opportunities. 

Visit the Winnebago Community Market online at SolveHungerToday.org/volunteer-opportunities or call 630-443-6910 extension 192.

The market is open on:

  • Wednesdays: 4:00 – 5:30 p.m.
  • Thursdays: 8:30 – 10:30 a.m.
  • Fridays: 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
  • Saturdays: 9:00 – 11:30 a.m.

Blood donations  needed

Another way people can help is through blood donations. The Red Cross has also experienced a shortage of volunteers since the pandemic.

The need for blood is constant, according to the Red Cross. Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. Whether it’s someone who’s been in an accident, cancer patients going through treatment, those living with sickle cell disease or chronic illnesses. Donors are the only source of blood for those in need. Donated blood products are perishable. Red blood cells have a shelf life of only 42 days, so they must constantly be replenished.

One of the biggest challenges since the pandemic has been blood drive cancellations due to coronavirus concerns, “resulting in more than a million uncollected blood donations,” according to the Red Cross.

Extra safety precautions have been implemented:

  • This includes checking temperatures of staff and donors before entering a drive to make sure they are healthy.  
  • Providing hand sanitizer for use before entering the drives, as well as throughout the donation process. 
  • Following social distancing between donors including entry, donation and refreshment areas. 
  • Ensuring face masks or coverings are worn by both staff and donors.
  • Routinely disinfecting surfaces, equipment and donor-touched areas. 
  • Wearing gloves and changing gloves often. 

Convalescent plasma donations are also needed. In 2020, the Red Cross distributed more than 125,000 convalescent plasma products to hospitals across the country from people who have recovered from COVID-19.

“As COVID-19 cases have risen across the U.S., so has the need for convalescent plasma — leading to a national shortage of this potentially lifesaving blood product,” according to the American Red Cross. “It is important that people who have fully recovered from COVID-19 and have been symptom-free for 14 days to donate their convalescent plasma.”

The American Red Cross tests all blood donations for COVID-19 antibodies as well to help provide insight into whether they may have been exposed to this coronavirus during this ongoing pandemic.

Red Cross antibody tests will also be helpful to identify individuals who have COVID-19 antibodies and may qualify to be convalescent plasma donors for future donations.

Visit Redcrossblood.org to donate.

Andrea V. Watson: awatson@rrstar.com@andreavwatson12

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