How To Help Others In New Hampshire During The Pandemic | New Hampshire Public Radio

How To Help Others In New Hampshire During The Pandemic

Apr 27, 2020

Credit U.S. Army

As Granite Staters isolate themselves, many individuals, businesses, and organizations are in need of assistance and searching for help during a tumultuous time. We discuss ways that you can help out during the coronavirus pandemic, whether that be by sewing face masks, volunteering, or making a donation. 

Air date: Tuesday, April 28, 2020.


GUESTS:

This show was produced by fellow Jane Vaughan. 

More information and resources:

Those looking for ways to volunteer can visit volunteernh.org or nhresponds.org to find opportunities.

Anyone wishing to volunteer through Tri-County Community Action Prorgram can reach out to Nancy Malone, Coos County Retired and Senior Volunteer Program Director, at njmalone@tccap.org.

Those wishing to volunteer with Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Support Services in Grafton County can call 603-444-0184.

If you would like to volunteer with Tri-County Transit as a medical driver, call 603-752-1741.

Other organizations in need of volunteers include covidalliance.com/sst and redcross.org.

If you're an essential worker in need of help or a donor who might have extra items to spare, click here

If you need help with your computer, Greg from Keene is offering pay-what-you-can services at greg@thestiltskin.com or 603-757-6004. 

Transcript

  This is a computer-generated transcript and may contain errors. 

Peter Biello: 

From New Hampshire Public Radio, I'm Peter Biello, in for Laura Knoy. And this is The Exchange. Much of daily life in New Hampshire has shut down with both a state of emergency and a stay at home orders in place as Granite Staters isolate themselves. Many are in need of assistance. Families, individuals, businesses, nonprofits, all are searching for help during this tumultuous time. Today on The Exchange, we'll discuss ways that you can help out in your community during the coronavirus pandemic, whether that be through volunteering, remote support, donations of money or materials. Many people have been sewing masks to donate to hospitals or health care workers. Others are volunteering for their local food pantry. Have you been helping out in your own community? Have you witnessed your friends or neighbors helping out in a special way? Have you been helped? Or do you know a way that residents can get involved and volunteer while also maintaining physical distancing guidelines? And with us this hour, Nancy Malone with the Coos County retired and senior volunteer program. Maria Devlin's the CEO of the Red Cross's Northern New England region. She's with us by Skype. And state senator and physician Tom Sherman, also by Skype. Thank you very much, all of you, for being here.

Tom Sherman:
Thank you.

Maria Devlin:
Thank you.

Peter Biello:
So, Nancy, I want to start with you. Talk a little bit about Coos County retired and senior volunteer program. What does this program do generally and how has your work changed since the pandemic began?

Nancy Malone:
So the retired and senior volunteer program of Coos County is a Tri-County Community Action Program. We have three hundred ninety five volunteers, 287 actively served during our last reporting period and it's usually nursing homes, hospitals, schools, Head Start, Handy Helpers, 1 to 1 volunteering with visiting shut ins. The change is, you know, everyone, we're all trying to get used to our new normal. Many of us are working remotely. A lot of our volunteers are doing masks and gowns, phone trees, volunteers to check on other volunteers and clients, food pantry volunteers are delivering to senior shut-ins. They're also helping with senior meal delivery.

Peter Biello:
And has there been like an increase or a decrease in a particular type of volunteer activity or has there been a change in the number of people who are volunteering? What's been different?

Nancy Malone:
A lot of our seniors, of course, are 55 or older, so we recruit people 55 or older and place them at nonprofit throughout Coos County. But we don't turn away any volunteers. So Tri-County CAP covers Coos, Carol and Grafton counties. And regardless of the age of the volunteer, I will not not place the volunteer somewhere. I will find a home for the volunteer. And if I can't find it, and if it's out of my catchment area, then I will make sure that I call a peer that can get them placed. So, you know, our transit program is short on medical drivers. People still need to get to chemotherapy, radiation, and dialysis. Our Domestic Violence and sexual violence program in Northern Grafton County is short of help line volunteers. Anybody interested, there'll be a volunteer training coming up soon. The number, if they want to call that, is 444-0184. You know, we make sure that the volunteers have protective personal equipment. Masks, shields, gloves .

Peter Biello:
And do you provide all that? Or do they have to come up with it themselves?

Nancy Malone:
Most of the stations that they're placed at, so, for example, we have a lot of volunteers still delivering senior meals. So most of the stations will provide that. So senior meals is providing the gloves and the masks. If someone wants to be one to one volunteering, where they're visiting a shut-in or dropping off mail or prescriptions or groceries, and if there's going to be any human contact, then I would make sure that they have gloves and a mask. And try to maintain as much social distancing as possible. I mean, we've got volunteers making masks and gowns with donated fabric. You know, we've got our knitting volunteers still plugging away for winter time, we supply Coos County family health services and Head Start with hats and garments.

Peter Biello:
So you've got a lot going on, it seems like, with volunteers making stuff, volunteers being connected with organizations that can provide them with PPE as they do their jobs. About how many volunteers do you have working for you right now?

Nancy Malone:
At this time, it's hard to say, but my last active count was 287.

Peter Biello:
Two hundred and eighty seven roughly throughout the three counties that's in your catchment area.

Nancy Malone:
Well, my catchment for actually R.S.V.P. is just Coos County.

Peter Biello:
Just Coos County. Okay.

Nancy Malone:
But I worked for Tri-County Community Action Program. So if any volunteer in Coos, Carol, or Grafton County needs a volunteer home regardless of whether they're 55 or older, I will find a home for them. No volunteer gets turned away.

Peter Biello:
And so have you seen an uptick in the number of younger people who have been willing to volunteer so you don't turn anybody away? I guess that means if young people come through your doors looking for an opportunity, you're placing those people as well.

Nancy Malone:
We are. We've got young people that have purchased their own PPE and have been picking up pantry food and delivering it to clients, shut-ins, we've got some younger volunteers that have done grocery pickups for clients as well as our senior volunteers. I mean, just the senior volunteers. We've got one gal. For example, in one of the elderly housing and it's like an outside housing, so it's not like one big building. She picked up their mail, picked up the newspapers, knocks on their window, puts their mail outside their door, waves. I mean, so everyone, you know, everyone's trying to get involved and we're trying to get as many people involved as we can and engaged. Again, short, really short transit drivers and really short for the Domestic Violence Sexual Violence program.

Peter Biello:
And do those two types of volunteers need any kind of specialized training? And if so, do you provide that training?

Nancy Malone:
Yes. There's a volunteer training for domestic violence and sexual hotline. And it's starting shortly. And again, that numbers 4 4 4- 0 1 8 4. And if anybody wants to call Tri-County Transit, that number is 7 5 2-1 7 4 1. And Long-Distance Medical Drivers. People still have to get dialysis. People still have to get chemotherapy.

Peter Biello:
Well, we'll make sure that we can we can put those numbers up in case people didn't happen to connect them, write them down while you were saying them. Stay on the line with us, Nancy. I'd love to to turn to our other guests for a moment and ask Maria Devlin about what it's been like for the Red Cross in northern New England. Maria, how has the work that the Red Cross does changed since the pandemic began?

Maria Devlin:
Yeah, we're in a similar boat as Nancy and her team up north. So as you know, emergencies don't stop and neither does the Red Cross. So we have continued to do our mission work throughout the pandemic. And we've used a lot of the tools that we all have to now with social distancing and the protective gear. So if we get called to a home fire in the middle of the night, our volunteers sometimes do that work virtually to make sure that the family affected has a safe place to stay and receives financial support that they need virtually. Or we do go out and we practice the social distancing that we need to. Our blood drives continue to happen throughout the state of New Hampshire and all throughout northern New England. And that's an area where we had to make a lot of changes with a lot more processes protecting the donors and our staff at all of our blood drives.

Peter Biello:
Yeah, I imagine. And how has that program been specifically? Have you seen an increase or decrease depending on how people feel about pandemic?

Maria Devlin:
Yeah, right at the beginning of the pandemic, we obviously saw a massive decrease in the amount of corporations and schools and businesses that would host blood drives. We depend on our volunteer sponsors such as a school or college or a business to host us in their location and help get their employees, their students or the community to the blood drive. With many cancellations throughout the state, we had to adapt very, very quickly. And we now have been working with a variety of partners such as Elks Clubs, a bunch of different corporations that will open their doors to us still, churches, to be able to host blood drives now that require the donor beds to be six feet apart, where we make sure everyone has the PPE that they need in order to come in and keep themselves and our staff safe, as well as taking temperatures of people walking in. We've also had to go to mostly a donor appointment based program instead of having walk ins at our blood drive.

Peter Biello:
So if people want to give blood, they should contact you in advance or contact the Red Cross in advance and schedule an appointment.

Maria Devlin:
Yes, that is imperative. It just helps us manage the donor flow and people walking into the building.

Peter Biello:
About how long does it take to donate blood?

Maria Devlin:
So on a good day, it takes about an hour, get you in, do your health history and then you give your blood. It's the health history that typically takes the longest time. Right now, it's about an hour and 10, an hour and fifteen due to the fact that we're making sure that everyone has PPE and there's a lot more cleaning and stuff that happens in between each of our donors that come in.

Peter Biello:
I see. And so how how great is the need overall? Is this your greatest need at the Red Cross? Donated blood?

Maria Devlin:
The blood donations are needed all the time because someone in the United States typically needs blood every two seconds, two minutes. So we need blood all the time. But one of the crucial things that we do need right now is actually plasma from COVID-19 recovered patients. So if you know somebody, if the listening audience has had COVID-19 and is recovered and has recovered enough so the doctor says that they are fully recovered, we want to be in touch with those people because they can donate plasma, which can then help the next COVID-19 patient who's in ICU.

Peter Biello:
Oh, I see. So that was why you would want someone who is recovered as opposed to someone who hasn't had it yet.

Maria Devlin:
Correct. Correct.

Peter Biello:
And I imagine it's going to be, this has been a pretty big impact on the Red Cross, because I believe your work is run primarily by, what is it, 96 percent volunteers?

Maria Devlin:
Yes. We have volunteers throughout our entire organization. So 96 percent, so we have within northern New England, we have about 1800 volunteers and a very small paid staff in comparison. We have right now we have volunteers who help at our blood drives. They basically help take temperatures, greet people. They help make sure that their donor flow, meaning the donors are not bumping into each other, that they're maintaining six feet apart. Right now, that's an area where we definitely need volunteers to be willing and interested to help us. We do on the spot training. And if somebody is interested, they can go to Red Cross.org and look up volunteer and get that process started.

Peter Biello:
Great. Thank you for the tips, Maria. I really appreciate it. And stay with us, too. I want to bring in a few comments from people. Don in Deerfield wrote in. He says, I'd like to volunteer to help any way I possibly can. My problem is I'm on crutches and I can't do any lifting. I can drive. But about the only thing that I can do until I have my surgery and recover is operate phones and a computer. Any ideas? That's the question from Don. So maybe put it to Nancy. I imagine you might get inquiries like this quite a bit. What do you think?

Nancy Malone:
Yeah. And so a lot of people are, you know, kind of hunkering down, but we're finding stuff for them to do. So, notes to nursing home residents, notes to the elderly shut ins, you know, thinking of you. Hope all is well.

Peter Biello:
So a little bit of emotional support, you think, sending out by a nice notes.

Nancy Malone:
And a card is I mean, who doesn't like to get a little note even if it's a handwritten letter or typed letters? Doesn't matter. I suggest you're sending it to an elderly person, so make the font big.

Peter Biello:
Ok. Make make the font big as you as you write to to the elderly. Now, let's say if I wanted to do this, like I wouldn't know where to start. I don't know anybody to send this to deep. Do you maintain a list of that?

Nancy Malone:
Just give me a shout. I'd find out your location and then from there connect you with the right people that you would need to be connected with. And then, you know, just figure out where exactly you belong or who exactly you could go to.

Peter Biello:
All right, Nancy. Well, thank you. If anybody happens to write to us looking for such a list we'll be sure to put you in touch. Let's also talk to Greg in Keene. Greg, thank you very much for calling.

Caller:
Hi, good morning.

Peter Biello:
Have you been volunteering, Greg, or doing something else that might be beneficial to the community?

Caller:
Well, I run a computer repair business. And because people's computers have become so much more important in day to day life over the last month or so, what we've done is we've transitioned entirely to a pay what you can basis. We've had people come in who, you know, they've lost their jobs, but their kids still need to go to online school in the morning and they can't afford to take their computer to a big box store to get it fixed or anything else. So they come to us, we fix it up, we get it back to them. They give us what they can. I've had somebody pay for their repair with $5 and a can of tomato soup. One of the local farms had one of their major systems go down. And they gave me a jar of honey from their apiary. We're just doing what we can to try to help out people because, you know, we can't fight COVID-19, but we can keep your computer running.

Peter Biello:
And if you can keep a computer running, as you suggested, you can help people connect over a long distance, which many people are doing now. So. Greg, thank you very much for the call. Really appreciate it. Before we take a break, I do want to turn to Senator Tom Sherman to get insights about the program you've been working on, Tom. It's the senior support team. Can you talk a little bit about what was behind this group and what it does?

Tom Sherman:
Sure. We started about literally about five weeks ago. This came from Brain Trust from M.I.T. Sloan School of Management. Three professors, Simon Johnson, Retsef Levi and Valerie Karplus, as well as a number of others, got together and said, we can pool our resources, we can pool our connections and on a completely volunteer basis, do all they can to blunt the impact of COVID. Well, it turned out Valerie also happens to be my niece. And so I got a call one Sunday evening where she said, Can you tell me about PPE? And out of this came two major efforts in New Hampshire, one of which was Valerie's work with Perry Plummer to create an airlift of supplies of PPE from China, which Valerie has worked extensively in China. And the second one is the senior support team. In the past month, we went live just three weeks ago. The idea behind this is that we recognized that the elderly were the most vulnerable population to COVID, especially when they were close together, as in senior residential facility or nursing home assisted living or a CCRC. The goal was to help get every participating facility an infection control standard of practice. So to do this, we created basically what we call volunteer liaisons. And there are two assigned to every participating facility. And we use it a text messaging tool that was developed by one of the M.I.T. professors named Vivek Farias. And Vivek is one of the world's experts in artificial intelligence. And what this tool does, we start with an assessment which is just a very brief survey. And then every day the facility will get a ping on a cell phone in the facility that asks, do you have any new cases of COVID? Do you have any needs that have not been met? And then there's a box for text in return. And then our liaisons will reach out to them as much or as little as they like. We'll compile a daily report, which I submit to DHHS and to the emergency response center. And then we also connect them to different resources. So we're not giving advice. We're making connections.

Peter Biello:
And this text message again. Sorry for interrupting. The text message you get essentially is an opportunity for a nursing home to tell the state in a comprehensive way exactly how many cases they have, the status of the residents, and the greatest or even any need they have for personal protective equipment or any other equipment that would help them follow CDC guidelines. Is that what I'm hearing from you, Tom?

Tom Sherman:
That's exactly right. And the beauty of it, being a physician and having multiple physicians on our medical advisory panel, we all realize that everybody is busy and they don't have much time. So the idea of having a daily automatic connection that says do you need help is sort of one of the main features of this. And then having that followed up with a human connection where you can get more details. If the answer is yes, if the answer is no, there is no need for a call. There's no need for anybody to be bothered. But if there is a need for some assistance, we're right there.

Peter Biello:
And have there been examples? Can you tell us an example of a specific place or if you can't name a name, that's OK. An example of a time where, you know, the call went out, the response came in and the state came through with needed materials or support.

Tom Sherman:
Sure. And I can't name names. We all have signed confidentiality agreements. You can imagine that with this level of involvement, the only reporting we do is to the state. We don't, you know, we don't go out and talk about specific facilities, and that's the way we develop trust with the facilities. But there was one facility that was down to really using, they weren't saying they were using garbage bags, but they were completely out of gowns and also face masks. And that was, you know, sort of hitting the panic button. And the interesting part was that their request did not make it through to DHHS through the normal channels. So our reporting to DHHS, the response was immediate. We were able to get the report over. I was able to underscore that was that response and the need to Perry Plummer, who is over at the EOC, and they were able to get their supplies within, you know, within the day. So the response from DHHS and the EOC when they know of a problem is virtually immediate. And it's been a wonderful collaboration with them. We also are working with Convenient MD to make sure that staff have adequate testing if they are symptomatic. So one of the problems is that many of the staff don't have a primary care physician. So using telemedicine through convenient M.D., they can have an assessment and then Convenient M.D. can make sure they end up with the appropriate testing.

Peter Biello:
Senator Tom Sherman, stay on the line with us. We're gonna take a quick break. But when we come back, we'll have more to say with you, with Nancy Malone, and Maria Devlin. We got this note from Blake in Lyme when we asked what has cheered you up or given you hope recently? Blake responded, the selfless sacrifice and generosity of so many people on behalf of others. And that's exactly what we're talking about today on The Exchange, volunteer efforts that keep the state going in the midst of this Coronavirus pandemic. If you know of a way to volunteer, if you have benefited from volunteers, if you're an organization in search of volunteers, give us a call. We want to know your story. I'm Peter Biello. We'll be right back.

Peter Biello:
Tomorrow on The Exchange, in these times, many people are thinking more about end of life plans, from advanced directives to wills. We'll talk about the logistics and how to navigate these conversations with family. If you've had some experience with this recently, has the COVID-19 pandemic made you rethink your end of life plan? Today we are speaking with a few folks who have been keeping an eye on the efforts of volunteers in the Granite State. Lots of people and organizations suddenly have urgent needs for assistance. So we're looking at what those urgent needs are and how volunteers are stepping up to meet them. With us today are Nancy Malone with the Coos County retired and senior volunteer program. Maria Devlin, CEO of the Red Cross's Northern New England Region, and state senator and physician Tom Sherman. We'll talk with Nancy, Maria, and Senator Sherman in just a little bit. But we want to talk first with Theresa Walker. She's the founder of the Bedford Sewing Battalion. She's on the line with us now. Theresa, thanks very much for joining us.

Theresa Walker:
Good morning, Peter. Thank you for having me.

Peter Biello:
So, Theresa, you and your daughter Emily have and the group as a whole have sold over 10000 masks. So that's great. Why did you decide to start sewing so many masks? What led you to this project?

Theresa Walker:
Well, we started about six weeks ago, and like so many people in our state and across this country, we were watching the news and were horrified to see our medical professionals have such a lack of PPE. We were also concerned about the potential for shortages of ventilators and ICU beds, and we didn't have the ability to do anything about that. But we did have some ability to address the mask shortage. We had fabric. We were able to put our hands on some elastic. And then we took to Facebook and put a call out to some neighbors and community members in Bedford and they stepped up in droves.

Peter Biello:
How did they step up, do they provide materials for you? Did people who have some sewing skills raise their hands and say, I can do some of this?

Theresa Walker:
Both. The first people that reached out, I actually Emily and I were talking we joked that we started it one Friday morning and it was like being shot out of a cannon. We went from zero to 100 in a blink of an eye. And the immediate response was, I want to help, I can sew. I want to help, I can't sew, but I can cut fabric. And within a couple of days, we had community members in a local bank step forward and provide a substantial amount of financial support. So as we as I said, we're about six weeks into this and we have over five hundred and fifty members of what we call our battalion. Many of them are sewing, but many of them, including myself, are more behind the scenes in logistical work or organizing and procuring the supplies that we need and distributing those masks back out into the community.

Peter Biello:
So how do you go about distributing them? Have you talked to hospitals, nursing homes? Are you handing them out on the street as people say, hey, I need a mask, what are you doing?

Theresa Walker:
We call that mask bombing, when we approach strangers on the street and we hand them out. Yes, we do that. It's a little strange to approach a stranger while you're actually wearing a mask yourself. But I've done it and I know a bunch of the members of our battalion have done it. But that's maybe not the most effective way to get them into the community. When we started this, the biggest requests that we were receiving were from local hospitals. And we did work and did a lot of work with Southern New Hampshire Medical Center, the Elliot, various departments at CMC. We did start on day one reaching out to them and we thought that's how we would continue to distribute. But the requests that we received have completely overwhelmed us. We don't have time to reach out to organizations anymore. We're dealing with the requests that are coming in. And I would say in the last couple of weeks, the requests that we received from the medical community have lessened or abated slightly. And we're seeing many more requests from home health care workers, essential business, a couple of towns where they're trying to bring some of their employees back to work, where they need masks in order to do that. We provided 300 masks last week to the Manchester Fire Department. But many, many homes or individuals. We sent a couple what we call event where we just set up in a parking lot for an hour at a time and we give masks out to whomever shows up and needs them.

Peter Biello:
Ok. And about what percentage of requests for masks are you able to fill?

Theresa Walker:
We are working not quite 24 hours a day, but close to it. We would like to fill all of that. There's been a couple of requests that we've received from for profit companies that are requesting very specific masks that we don't make. So we haven't fulfilled those.

Peter Biello:
Because you're not making these so-called N-95 masks, right. You're making just standard cloth face masks kind of thing.

Theresa Walker:
Exactly. We're making those and we make a different style that a lot of the medical professionals like that have a pocket on the back where they can insert a filter. But for the general public we don't make those because those filters are not widely available to the public. But I would say that in the six weeks we have not had an individual or a family approach us that we have said no to. We've had a couple of times where we've said it'll take us a day or two, but we'll get them to you.

Peter Biello:
So you're prioritizing families and individuals?

Theresa Walker:
No. Those are easy because our sewers are returning around 300 masks to us a day so we can still do a few masks here, four masks here, five masks there all the time. We do those consistently. The ones that we've prioritized are the ones that come in for 500 masks or 300 masks. And we have had to do some prioritization. We had a request yesterday, for instance, of a company who wanted to reopen and bring their workers back. But starting in the summer, maybe June, unfortunately for them, but we did have to move them down the priority list. And we'll take a look at fulfilling that as we get closer to that date. We look for immediate need. Who has the most immediate need? What part of the population is the most vulnerable? And we're trying to fill those needs first.

Peter Biello:
Well, Theresa, what is giving you hope right now in this in this incredibly difficult time?

Theresa Walker:
What is giving me hope?

Peter Biello:
Yes.

Theresa Walker:
Oh. I like to think that every mask that we make and distribute and obviously the key component of making this work is that people have to wear them, right. It's no good if we get them out and people don't use them, right. But for every mask that somebody wears, our community as a whole is a little bit safer. And I know that is very incremental. It's a little bit safer. But for every person who perhaps has the virus, that doesn't pass it on to somebody else. We're all a little bit safer. And perhaps the stay at home orders that we're living under that are becoming a little constrictive will end just a little bit sooner. That's what's giving me hope.

Peter Biello:
Theresa Walker, founder of the Bedford Sewing Battalion with her daughter Emily. The battalion has sewed more than 10000 masks. Extraordinary effort. And Theresa says 300 masks a day produced by the battalion. Theresa, thank you very much for speaking with us. Really appreciate it.

Theresa Walker:
Oh, thank you for having me.

Peter Biello:
We get this note by email from Margaret who said, Is there a volunteer bank in New Hampshire where people can donate professional skills? I'm an editor and writer by trade. I'd like to donate my skills to help job seekers, small businesses and progressive political and environmental causes. So maybe I'll turn that to the folks still on the line with us. Nancy Malone with Coos County retired and senior volunteer program. Maria Devlin, CEO of the Red Cross's Northern New England region. State Senator Tom Sherman. Maybe start with you, Nancy. Do you know of any volunteer bank where people can donate professional skills that perhaps can be done remotely?

Nancy Malone:
So we primarily focus on nonprofits and municipalities. No town businesses. That wouldn't be our thing.

Peter Biello:
But is there a volunteer bank that you know of that maybe another organization keeps track of?

Nancy Malone:
They could do volunteerNewHampshire.org.

Peter Biello:
VolunteerNew Hampshire.org, OK.

Nancy Malone:
I mean, they pretty much, you know, will place them, I imagine, wherever. I did want to add and I neglected to say it earlier. We have blood drives throughout Coos County. And we have those are completely manned by Tri-County CAP R.S.V.P. volunteers completely. In fact, I've been doing the Blood Drives for 20 years. People are apprehensive about giving blood right now, but our biggest issue with our last blood drive was that we couldn't get a venue.

Peter Biello:
And I don't know if that's a similar situation with Maria Devlin at the Red Cross. What do you think, Maria? Is it difficult to even find a venue for blood donations now?

Maria Devlin:
It has been at times, and that really has to do with the sponsors having the right amount of space and the ability for donors to access that space without a lot of troubles. So we have to check every single venue to make sure that it has the space that we need, especially with the social distancing. And we have to make sure that we can have our staff be able to attend those events as well. We've really condensed our blood drives to make sure that every single blood drive we're having now, we see between 30 and 50 people come in. So we're getting between 30 and 50 units of blood. And the venues really have changed their processes that they need, so many times if it is a very small and more cramped space, we're not pursuing blood drives in those areas due to social distancing right now. So we hope as soon as COVID is over, we will be able to go back to some of those drives. But definitely the people who own those locations sometimes are hesitant to have the public be there, even though the governor has said that we are an essential service and blood drives and blood donors should still continue to come out.

Peter Biello:
We got this email from Christopher who writes, My name is Christopher Lynch and I'm a junior at the Derryfield School in Manchester. I've been working over the past couple of weeks with a classmate of mine and a teacher together, on used Legos from members of our community in recognition of the stress and boredom many families and young children are facing during the strange time, we're still in the process of communicating for potential donations before we sanitize and deliver. We really got this started because we saw the potential that our friends, teachers and community had to help improve how young kids are experiencing the COVID-19 lockdown in families that might be struggling to purchase toys for their children or keep them entertained. That's the note from Christopher with a focus on children. And now I'll turn it to you, Maria. And maybe, Tom, you have some insights on this. I don't know. What do you think? Is there anything that the Red Cross is doing in particular to assist children and how they may be doing in this time?

Maria Devlin:
There is actually, we have a variety of Red Cross programs that help children be prepared for times of emergency. So we have programming that goes from elementary school till about middle school. And if your listeners want to go to RedCross.org and under get help, there's a variety of ways under, it says emergency preparedness for kids. So there is ways to download different apps. There's different activities that children and their families can do at home. There's an app called Monster Guard, which is interactive, and kids can use it on a mobile device. So there's a variety of ways that kids can learn different coping skills during times of emergency as well as help them and their family be prepared while at home during this time.

Peter Biello:
Thanks for that. Really appreciate that. Tom, did you want to say something?

Tom Sherman:
Yes. I just wanted to. You had asked about other volunteer opportunities. VolunteerNH.org is one that had already been mentioned. For medical personnel, they can join us by going to COVIDalliance.com/sst, all lowercase. They can also go to NHResponds.org, which is a great site and both for kids and adults. There's a wonderful site through the New Hampshire government site, which is NH.gov/COVID19/volunteers. All of these are wonderful volunteer sites with, you know, for example, in ours we are our executive director, doesn't have a lot of medical background, but he's just completely savvy on data. And we have Judy Jois, who is our head of volunteers, who's a nurse. We have Joan Widmer from the New Hampshire Nurses Association. Paul McKinnon, these are all people with a huge amount of background. But if you're somebody who has a data background, we can certainly use your help. And I think a lot of these other because so many people are working from home in their volunteer world, the ability to have somebody with some data expertise and tech expertise is huge.

Peter Biello:
What kind of tech expertise in particular like do they know how to write code or is there a computer software that they're familiar with?

Tom Sherman:
Well, ours it's funny because ours in just the last four weeks, we've gone from nothing to a completely database program using several different programs, including Google and chat rooms, and so that kind of it just makes the whole process much smoother. So we have M.I.T grad students who are helping us with our data. And MIT EMTs, we have PA students from MCPHS. We have retired nurses. We have a a nursing librarian who keeps our library completely up to date. People from all different walks can join these different volunteer efforts, not just ours, and bring their expertise to bear. So I think there's a huge amount of opportunity at those sites that I just mentioned. I'm happy to send those along to you so you can get them on your Website.

Peter Biello:
Thanks very much, Senator Sherman. Please do. We'd love to put some links up to our page, NHPR.org/exchange. We're going to take a quick break. But when we come back, we'll talk a little more about volunteering opportunities. We got this one from Mike by email. Mike says, My 18 year old son found a way to use his favorite toy, a 3D printer, to help medical professionals in a small way, printing ear savers, a plastic band that sits on the back of the head for masks to hook to instead of your ears. He found a design, tweaked it, and is printing five ear savers every hour constantly and giving them to the frontline heroes at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center. Even if all he's doing is making their ears less uncomfortable, I'm proud of him for helping. Thanks for the e-mail, Mike. Really appreciate it. More after a break. I'm Peter Biello. We'll be right back.

Peter Biello:
This is The Exchange on NHPR. I'm Peter Biello, and today we're talking about volunteers. Volunteers are stepping up to serve their communities in surprising ways during this coronavirus pandemic. And we're looking at some of those ways today. And we're also soliciting your ideas on ways to make use of time spent indoors. Are there ways that you found to volunteer from your home? We're speaking with State Senator Tom Sherman, Maria Devlin, CEO of the Red Cross's Northern New England region. And Nancy Malone with the Coos County retired and senior volunteer program. We got this note from Sherry who wrote Epsom Bible Church has unmanned no contact tables outside the church doors except when it is very rainy or windy. People take what they need and others fill it right back up. Both church people and community people are helping keep the tables full. It is a good drive and there is a town food pantry. This is not competing with just complimenting the town food pantry and giving more access for struggling families. I wanted to take a few minutes to talk a little bit about food and food insecurity and whether or not this has exacerbated the problem and whether your volunteer efforts are stepping up to fill in the gap. Let's start with you, Nancy. Coos County retired and senior volunteer program. To what extent are the volunteers under this program assisting with food insecurity?

Nancy Malone:
Well, we have volunteers that are delivering senior meals still. And then that because there's no more congregate meals, they are also delivering a congregate meal, so seniors that would normally come to the Berlin Senior Center are not able to at the time, but they still need to eat. So they've upped the game. Cranked out more food. So they're doing their regular shut-in deliveries, which volunteers are doing and then they're doing also their congregate meal delivery, which has added about 60. I would guess because I don't have the exact number.

Peter Biello:
So are you focused primarily on meals that are already prepared as opposed to, say, boxes of dried goods, canned stuff?

Nancy Malone:
It's both. So they're given to the best of my knowledge, they're given shelf stable food in case of an emergency, I know that they were donated toilet paper from the Cascade paper mill. And Kiran Building Center. So they got food and toilet paper. Communications have gone out, flyers, you know, things like that for the shut ins. So the volunteers are still delivering in all of Coos County. The other thing is the pantry is run by completely run by R.S.V.P. volunteers and they're making sure that other volunteers are getting food delivered to shut-ins and we also deliver the Hampshire commodity supplemental food. You know, that comes out bi monthly every other month.

Peter Biello:
I see. So there are a variety of ways that your organization is making sure that people in your region are staying fed. Maria, how about the Red Cross? What is the Red Cross doing with respect to food and possible food shortages or people having trouble accessing it right now?

Maria Devlin:
So when somebody has an emergency such as a home fire, the Red Cross does provide financial assistance so they can get the food that they need for for the time until other services can be brought in. But the way the Red Cross is helping some other local agencies is by providing kind of manpower support. So in certain places, we're working with the Salvation Army or other food bank type of organizations and helping them deliver. So it's not the Red Cross who is actually putting the meals together and doing that work. But the Red Cross can be a partner with other partners to provide that volunteer work force to help deliver the meals to the communities that we serve.

Peter Biello:
And Senator Tom Sherman, you're working with the the senior support team, primarily with nursing homes, which already have a kind of a food supply chain in place. Is food insecurity a focus or that's left to others?

Tom Sherman:
Right. That's not as much of a focus for us, although I would like to give a shout out to Gather, which is in Portsmouth, they're doing a phenomenal job. Rockingham community action down in Seabrook also has a food bank and pantry. And you know, these food banks are stressed to the limit. Right now, they are seeing more people accessing them than they ever thought possible. But the other is just calling your neighbor. You know, it's part of what I really love about New Hampshire is how close we are in our communities. And it's not technically joining a volunteer organization, but calling up your elderly neighbor and making sure they have enough food, seeing if they need you to do run to the grocery store where you'll hopefully wear one of your masks. But to check in. There are efforts in my district, in my towns where the towns are actually using lists of people who are at risk, whether it's through the Seabrook Station list or other emergency lists and making sure that they're getting called. Hampton is doing a great job at this with their rec department, calling every person who has been identified at risk and making sure they're OK. But we can do that with our neighbors as well. And I think while that's not traditionally volunteer work, it's looking out for those who may need help. And it's a wonderful way to reach out.

Peter Biello:
And it's in the spirit of what we heard earlier in the program. If all you can do is write a little nice note to someone and send it along, that really does a lot of work in helping people lift their spirits during this strange time. Tom, along the lines of reaching out to people like we get this note from Jen who says, My chiropractor called me last week to check in, not to see if I needed an appointment, but rather to ask if I needed anything from the store. He's aware I live alone. And during the conversation I mentioned I couldn't find non latex gloves in my size. Shortly after he delivered a bag of the correct size gloves. Hats off to Paul Malloy for making my day. That's from Jen, who sent us an email. Senator Sherman, you're also a physician. Can you tell us what would be most helpful to you as a physician? What ways could residents help you out or make life easier for physicians out there?

Tom Sherman:
The number one way that people can make life. I'm a gastroenterologist. I'm not as much on the front lines, although I will be on call this coming weekend. So I'll be in the hospital. But for our hospitals and our emergency medical providers across the state, as well as our intensivists and and lung doctors, the number one thing we can all do is follow the governor's stay at home order. The reason New Hampshire is doing as well as it is, is because we've all listened to the governor, listened to the medical experts. And really, I believe we are blunting the curve by wearing our own protection when we go out in public, by keeping our social distancing, by keeping our going out to just essential chores, that's the most important. But also, I think the efforts like making masks, making sure that everybody is protected, has adequate protection, is equally important. And I went out and delivered masks donated by LDI Solutions, which is a company owned by Lula Marka from Hampton Falls. He went and was able to acquire a whole bunch of masks and we were able to distribute them to our DPW workers after checking with the state and making sure they didn't need them. These were droplet masks, but they keep our workers safe in the towns. And so I think people can do just sort of changing how we live our lives for now and making sure that we are following the guidelines from the CDC and the Department of Health. And that way we will decrease the likelihood we're going to get sick, we'll decrease the likelihood we're going to expose the frontline health care workers to a patient with COVID. It's the best thing we can do as citizens of the state.

Peter Biello:
And so let me ask you to look into the future for the next month or so. Your senior support team obviously has some resources, but what resources, either material or volunteer, will you need in the coming month?

Tom Sherman:
Well, the good news is we are getting a large amount of PPE coming in, especially toward the end of this week, over the last week. You've seen it in the news. Again, I think one of the one of the most important resources we will need is to keep the PPE supply. If you think about opening the state one of the parts that really struck home to me as I was talking to one of our dentists and he said I donated all of my PPE to the places that needed it and now I can't reopen my office because I don't have enough. That's the kind of sort of aha moment that we're all facing is how do we reopen? We will need far more personal protective equipment than we thought we would need because we're going to need it in our everyday lives. So that's probably the most important area for resources. I'm sorry. Go ahead.

Peter Biello:
I was just going to because our time is short. I did want to give Maria and Nancy a chance to weigh in on that same question as well. Maria, looking into the next month or so, as some things maybe start to reopen and people start to inch back into society, is there a volunteer need that you anticipate or a material need that you'll anticipate?

Maria Devlin:
There's always volunteer needs. And from the Red Cross perspective, the way the communities can help us is to donate their time, to donate their financial resources and to donate their blood. We have virtual opportunities as well. And I would be remiss if the writer or caller before they mentioned virtual opportunities for people who write. We have a communications team who would love to be in contact with you, but we have virtual opportunities as well. But time, money, and blood is really the three things that keep the American Red Cross going for people who need us when emergencies happen.

Peter Biello:
Great. So that was Margaret who asked about, you know, helping out professional job seekers with her skills as an editor and writer. Margaret, feel free to reach out to us and we can connect you with Maria. Anybody else in that position as well, we can connect you. That's not a problem. And Nancy, we'll close with you. What do you think in the next month or so, you've mentioned that you need drivers and you had another need. Is there something else that you think you'll need as people start to get back into the world?

Nancy Malone:
Well, I mean, everybody is apprehensive about getting back to some sort of regular normal. But I just wanted to say that, you know, TRI-County community action program is one of five community action programs. They all need volunteers. So regardless of where someone is in New Hampshire, they call their community action program and see what the need is, what their comfort level is. Do they want to volunteer from home? Can they drive? Do they want to go to a specific location to volunteer? I think the getting back to our new norm will involve the people, we've worked closely with New Hampshire Homeland Security and Emergency Management. We've gotten some PPE.

Peter Biello:
Well, Nancy Malone with the Coos County retired and senior volunteer program. Thanks very much for it for speaking with us. Really appreciate it.

Nancy Malone:
Thank you for having me.

Peter Biello:
And Maria Devlin, CEO of the Red Cross's Northern New England region, and state Senator Tom Sherman, thank you as well for for sharing your thoughts with us. Really appreciate it.

Tom Sherman:
Thank you.

Maria Devlin:
Thank you.

Peter Biello:
Maria Devlin and Senator Tom Sherman joining us by Skype. That's it for today. But we've mentioned a lot of resources on the program today. If you are looking for a link or a phone number mentioned today, check out our Website, NHPR.org/exchange. We'll put them up there shortly so that you can connect with the resources that you want to connect with. Remember, the conversation continues online on Facebook as well. I'm Peter Biello. Thank you very much for listening.