Not only are these online coordination resources easy to use, but they are an efficient way of making sure that there are no gaps in the calendar for meals, and provide a non-intrusive way for volunteers, whether friends or neighbors, to make a valuable and thoughtful contribution.
I have participated in these three support systems so far, all of which have worked well for either organizing meals and/or rides, or keeping friends and family updated on progress and key events:
- Lots of Helping Hands
- Volunteer Spot
- Caring Bridge
A designated organizer sets up an account, and schedules needs for meals, help driving to appointments, etc. on a calendar. Special dietary requests can also be noted. This can then be sent out by email to a list of volunteers. Volunteers then sign up for dates that work for them, and an email reminder is sent several days before their sign-up date. What I like about this site is that for meal planning, volunteers can include what they’re planning on making, so others can plan accordingly, e.g., your friend won’t get lasagna three days in a row.
Similar to Lots of Helping Hands, an organizer sets up an account, and designates dates on a calendar that help is needed, or other details. Emails can be sent to volunteers with more specific information on the type of help that is needed. Notes can also be included on the calendar site, e.g., one meal signup I’ve helped with posted: “Please keep meals as healthy and organic as possible. No processed foods or sugar. Dinner needs to be for four.”
This site is a great way for people to stay connected to a friend who is ill. Updates on the person’s progress and well being are posted by an administrator, and friends who join the network can respond with thoughtful posts any time of the day. When someone is going through chemotherapy and/or radiation, having surgery, or running to doctor’s appointments, all while trying to take care of their family and sometimes working, they are exhausted, and it takes all their energy to get through the day. They just don’t have the energy or time to return well-meaning phone calls or emails. Caring Bridge makes it easy for friends to post messages and thoughts for their friend, and for their friend to read them at their leisure, and respond if and when they’re able to. It’s a great way to show you care, without inundating your friend with phone calls and emails, only to be disappointed that they’re not returned. Trust me, your friend appreciates all you do even if they can’t call you directly.
There are several other online resources, including Carerunner, Careflash and Care Diary, which provide similar coordination and information sharing features. In addition, there is a book called Share the Care that I bought years ago that talks about all the different ways friends and neighbors can help out. Each person has a unique gift that allows them to contribute in a way that they are most comfortable. For example, someone might be a great cook and be able to whip up a delicious meal. Another person might have great organizational skills and be able to help sort through medical bills. Yet another person might be able to help drive their friend to doctor’s appointments.
- Create a “culinary team” and appoint a “culinary captain”
- Break the food down into containers
- A food drop-off is not a visit (leave a cooler outside the house for drop-offs)
- Find out about food allergies or can’t-eat ingredients
- Lean toward comfort foods
- Strive for some variety
- Turn the food-making process into a party
- Become familiar with what freezes well
- Tailor the food to the recipient’s needs without lecturing
- Just because you don’t cook doesn’t mean you can’t help.
I would love to hear what tools have worked best in your community to help organize volunteers to help those in need.
How to Help Out Without Stressing Folks Going Through Hard Times, The Denver Post