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If you want to help out during the coronavirus pandemic, you can brighten someone’s day by showing your art to the world.
That’s the idea behind @coronaartcollective, an Instagram account — launched by a University of Utah art student — where artists can display their work to a world that can’t get out to galleries, because of the directives to stay home and self-isolate.
“Everybody’s bored at home right now. … I wanted to make a place where we can all show what we’re doing,” Susannah Mecham, the account’s founder, said Friday from her home in East Millcreek.
Mecham, a 20-year-old U. fine arts major, was camping with friends over spring break, and missed many of the early alarms about the coronavirus outbreak — including news that her classes at the U. were canceled.
“I got home to an exploding phone of all the pandemic stuff happening all the same time,” she said.
Mecham said her mother suggested she get online and talk to her friends from art class, and look at each other’s work, “so you can still enjoy the experience of being in art school,” she said.
Mecham expanded on the idea by launching the Instagram account on Sunday. At first, it was meant for her fellow students — including some whose senior-thesis exhibitions were canceled because of coronavirus. But soon she expanded it to anyone wanting to share their work.
“It’s helpful for me as a student to look at other people’s work … so I can be inspired by their work, or glean strategies, or learn from them,” she said.
In less than a week, Mecham has posted 52 submissions, and more have submitted their art — including paintings, drawings, videos of music performances, and a link to a film.
One submission, still to be posted, is an animation of a character falling through the sky. Mecham said it was “inspired by things being out of balance right now, just feeling all the weird stuff going on.”
People can send their work via direct message to Mecham via the Instagram account, or share with the hashtag #coronaartcollective.
Friday: Matching volunteers to people who need some help
If you want to help out during the coronavirus pandemic, sign on to these efforts to connect volunteers with those who need help.
• In Utah Valley, Brigham Young University student John Lindsay has organized a group of 20 to 30 volunteers to pick up groceries and other supplies for people unable to leave their homes.
Lindsay is deploying modern technology to coordinate volunteers in an efficient and non-contagious way. He’s posting requests for help on a Slack channel, where volunteers can sign on and contact the person in need. People can pay for groceries using Apple Pay or Venmo, so there’s no direct contact.
To take part, Utah Valley volunteers can call or text Lindsay at 801-598-3993.
• Another group, Salt City Helpers, is helping match up volunteers with people who need help.
People can fill out a Google form and offer up what they can do — run errands, care for pets, do yard work, write resumés, cook, provide professional services, or even just talk or FaceTime with someone in isolation — and be matched with people who sign up for assistance.
Thursday: Help a small restaurant business by ordering takeout
If you want to help out during the coronavirus outbreak, order dinner to go from a local restaurant.
A new website — supportutahdining.com — is sharing the names and links for dozens of independent Utah restaurants that have had to close their sit-down dining in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
“We live here, and we love the dining options in Salt Lake City,” said James Roberts, managing partner of ReDirect Digital, a digital marketing agency. “This thing could decimate the local dining economy.”
Ordering takeout from those restaurants, he said, is one way to pump some money into struggling businesses during the outbreak.
In a similar vein, actor Ty Burrell — who is part owner of Bar X and Beer Bar in Salt Lake City, Cotton Bottom Inn in Holladay, and The Eating Establishment in Park City — put out a call Wednesday to raise money “for food and beverage employees, who are a particularly vulnerable population, most often uninsured.”
As a former “terrible waiter” while his acting career began, Burrell said, he understands that “navigating the unemployment world is very tricky.”
Burrell has talked to Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall about the idea, which is still in its infancy.
“We don’t really have a portal to go to at the moment,” Burrell said. “I would want to plant the seed for anybody who may be looking to put their money into something that might have an immediate effect for people displaced during this time.”
In the meantime, the “Support Utah Dining” website is becoming a rallying point for independent restaurants.
“We’ve built this amazing local restaurant community here,” Roberts said. “We don’t want those people to suffer.”
Restaurant workers are already “trained to be safe,” Roberts said, to exercise care and good hygiene to prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses — so they know how to perform the practices recommended to avoid the spread of coronavirus.
Roberts and his crew launched the site on Monday, after seeing last weekend’s reports of Summit County shutting down on-site dining for its restaurants. That followed the COVID-19 diagnosis of a doorman at a popular Park City bar, The Spur Bar & Grill. Roberts expected Salt Lake County to follow suit, which it did, and “we wanted to be proactive.”
Roberts contacted Salt Lake City restaurateurs first — Scott Evans at Pago, Joel LaSalle at Current, and the folks at Market Street Grill (one of ReDirect’s clients) — and built out from there. One rule: All the restaurants are independent and locally owned; no chain restaurants are on the site so the money spent on dinner stays in the Utah economy.
Right now, 61 of the 84 restaurants on the list are in Salt Lake City. Most of the rest are in Salt Lake County, except for one in Orem and five in Park City. Roberts said he expected more restaurants to jump on board as the idea picks up steam.
Roberts said he has been approached about creating a similar site just for Utah County restaurants, and he received a request to launch a site in Massachusetts.
“It’s been kind of a nice distraction the last four days,” Roberts said.
Wednesday: Get matched to somebody who needs help
If you want to help out a neighbor during the coronavirus outbreak, a newly formed organization is matching volunteers with people in need.
Salt Lake Valley COVID Mutual Aid is a clearinghouse that is taking applications both for volunteers and for people who could use a little extra help.
Shandra Benito, executive director of Art Access, said she and a few friends started the group Friday, modeling it after a similar mutual aid group in Seattle — one of the first American hotspots for COVID-19.
“There’s a lot of people sitting [at home] and saying, ‘What can we do?’,” Benito said. “Creating a place where people can do something helps our general public stay calm and stop panicking.”
On the Mutual Aid’s website, volunteers can sign up to buy groceries for a neighbor — either out of their own pocket or reimbursed by the group — and deliver them. Those who need help can make requests for assistance.
Those who can’t leave the house — because they have compromised immune systems, for example, or are tending to children — have also volunteered, Benito said. They can help by coordinating other volunteers’ efforts and matching them with families, she said.
Taylor Almond, another organizer of the group, said 264 people had signed on to volunteer and 143 people had made requests, as of Wednesday morning. And their website has only been up since Sunday.
Benito said her group aims to provide $100 for each request — $50 in groceries, and $50 in cash to help with expenses. The group is accepting money donations via Venmo, or a GoFundMe account that as of Wednesday morning has raised $8,720 in pledges.
Mutual Aid also is moderating a Facebook page, where helpers and those needing help can contact each other directly. “They say, ‘I need this,’ or ‘I can offer this,’” Benito said.
On Wednesday morning, despite feeling a bit unsettled by the 5.7-magnitude earthquake that rolled through the Salt Lake Valley, Benito and Almond went shopping for a family at a South Salt Lake discount supermarket.
They loaded a cart with potatoes, carrots, onions, tomatoes, a bag of apples, broccoli, spinach, a bag of rice, some luncheon meats, ground beef and chicken quarters, and a six-roll pack of toilet paper. They went over their $50 limit by less than $4.
Benito said she expects the need for volunteers to grow in coming weeks.
“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” Benito said. “The more things change, the more we want to make sure there is a strong system in place to help.”
Tuesday: SLC schools need reusable bags
If you have reusable grocery bags to spare, the Salt Lake City School District needs them to deliver food to local families.
Superintendent Lexi Cunningham tweeted out that request Tuesday.
Call the Salt Lake Education Foundation, at 801-578-8258, or drop them off at the district office, at 440 E. 100 South, Salt Lake City.
Tuesday: Make an appointment to volunteer at Utah Food Bank
If you’re looking to help others during the coronavirus pandemic, the Utah Food Bank can use volunteers — though, for the moment, you need to make a reservation.
Late last week, officials at the food bank put out an alarm that they needed help in a hurry — because many of the church groups and businesses who had signed up to volunteer had canceled, citing Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s recommendation against large gatherings.
But after a weekend — and a call to action on Twitter by Silicon Slopes CEO Clint Betts — “we are pretty full through this week,” said Heidi Cannella, the food bank’s communications director.
The Utah Food Bank is taking names for volunteers for next week. No walk-in volunteers will be accepted.
Volunteers must be between ages 12 and 60, Cannella said. Shifts are available starting at 9 a.m. on Mondays through Thursdays and 8 a.m. on Saturdays. Evening shifts are available Mondays through Thursdays. (The food bank is closed Wednesday, March 18, having lost electricity during the morning’s earthquake.)
Cannella said the food bank is taking a maximum of 30 volunteers at a time, split between two rooms to allow enough space for social distancing. Hand sanitizer will be available.
Volunteers will be tasked with sorting food or packing boxes to be distributed to the food bank’s patrons, Cannella said. Repackaging of bulk food into smaller units is being discontinued for now, Cannella said, so no one is touching open food.
Volunteer labor is part of the food bank’s business model, said Utah Food Bank CEO Ginette Bott. If volunteers had to be replaced by paid workers, Bott said, the food bank would be paying wages for 54 full-time employees — money the nonprofit instead puts toward buying food.
Editor’s note: Betts was recently named to The Salt Lake Tribune’s nonprofit board of directors.
Monday: The Red Cross is seeking blood donors in Utah
If you’re looking to help others during the coronavirus pandemic, here’s one way: The American Red Cross needs your blood.
Donations are down nationwide, because the Red Cross holds 80% of its blood drives at businesses, schools and universities — most of which have closed or cut back public access.
“A lot of blood is going uncollected — we’re talking thousands of units,” Richard Woodruff, director of communications for the American Red Cross’s Utah and Nevada region, said Monday.
Nationally, he said, approximately 1,500 blood drives nationwide had been canceled as of Friday, resulting in 45,000 fewer blood donations than usual.
To give blood, start by going to the Red Cross’s website, redcrossblood.org. Type in your ZIP code, and the site will direct you to blood drives near you. The Red Cross will also text you if a blood drive is canceled, Woodruff said, and locate a different one.
The American Red Cross’ blood donation sites are open in Murray, Ogden, Provo and St. George. You should make an appointment first, Woodruff said — this cuts down on waiting time, and allows you to fill out the pre-screening questionnaire ahead of time.
You must be healthy and feeling well to be a blood donor. You will have your temperature taken before donating.
Contrary to internet rumor, Woodruff said, giving blood is not a cheap alternative for getting a coronavirus test. There is no test to screen blood donations for coronavirus or other respiratory viruses, and there is no evidence that this novel coronavirus can be transmitted through blood transfusions.
Donating blood is safe, Woodruff said, and those taking blood are “taking extraordinary precautions” in light of the coronavirus outbreak, “in harmony with CDC guidelines.” At blood drives, he said, beds are spaced apart to allow for social distancing, and there is plenty of hand sanitizer available before and during the process.
Type O blood and platelets are particularly needed now, the Red Cross reports.
You can also give money to the American Red Cross, at redcross.org. Aside from the Red Cross’ regular relief efforts, Woodruff said, the organization needs money to hire extra phlebotomists to run the smaller blood drives now being organized.