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Sacramento's volunteer groups get creative so community can give back virtually

"What do you do in a pandemic when you can't go to the soup kitchen (and) you can't stand beside other people? Get creative," said Dr. Bethany Marshall.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — For people who can't donate money or for whom volunteering in-person is too big of a health risk, there are plenty of ways to give back this holiday season from home.

It can even be as easy as reading the grocery store flyers that you get in the mail aloud for someone who is blind.

Volunteers record themselves on their phones and send it into The Society for the Blind's Access News. It's a service for those with vision loss to keep up with local current events and deals. 

Executive director, Shari Roeseler said the service has grown in importance for their clients due to the pandemic.

"To hear another person's voice reading that news gives great connection for people who, right now, are doubly isolated when they're living alone. They're blind and low vision," Roeseler said.

She said the non-profit would not be able to thrive without its 200 volunteers each year, both onsite and virtual. Although more people have volunteered this year, she said the greatest need is for bilingual readers for Access News.

These kinds of virtual volunteering opportunities are what we should be embracing this difficult year, according to California Psychoanalyst Dr. Bethany Marshall.

"What do you do in a pandemic when you can't go to the soup kitchen (and) you can't stand beside other people? Get creative," she said. "Do not allow yourself to be limited."

Dr. Marshall said it's good for the community, and it's even good for the volunteer.

"Volunteering is such a core aspect of being happy and having good mental health," she said. "In fact, if you should embrace volunteering in whatever form that takes during this pandemic, choose to be creative."

Recognizing this, Hands-On Sacramento, the region's volunteer action center, partnered with local non-profits in need of virtual volunteers.

That has translated to making stress relief toys for animals at the Front street Animal Shelter, fidget blankets for the Sacramento public library and writing letters to hospice patients.

"The little things that you do, just writing letters of encouragement for example, does a lot of things for the people that will benefit from it," said Mike Gueverra of Hands on Sacramento.

The organization also partnered with justserve.org, which has a tool to narrow down opportunities that can be done from the comfort and safety of home.

“As long as you're doing something for the benefit of the community, you're doing a great job! That's the essence of volunteering,” Gueverra said.

For more information on how to volunteer virtual visit Hands on Sacramento, JustServe.org, or Society for the Blind.

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