For 27 years, United Way brought together thousands of people to volunteer on one day known as Day of Caring. The demand was so great for Day of Caring that we could no longer contain it to one single day. Our solution — Summer of Caring!
Although volunteering will look a bit different this year due to COVID-19, we put together eight weeks of prompts and activities that you can choose from while remaining safe and healthy at home.
Weekly Themes - Every week during Summer of Caring will have a theme and include prompts and activities that align with the theme.
Variety of Ways to Engage - Instead of only doing one volunteer project you can choose your own adventure and select the weekly activities that most interest you. You may even be inspired to come up with your own (if you do make sure you share it with us on social media using #soc2020)!
Flexible Schedule - Complete an activity at a time that is convenient for you. There is no time limit or schedule for you to follow.
- Stay Safe and Healthy - All activities have been designed with your health and safety in mind. Please follow the CDC guidelines and NYS regulations when participating in Summer of Caring.
In addition to our weekly activities, you can visit VolunteerWNY.org to see an up to date list of volunteer opportunities that are available at local organizations and a list of critical items that you can donate. We have also included activities that you can complete every week in response to COVID-19.
Included every week during Summer of Caring are two activities that are designed to directly address the immediate needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Face Mask Drive - Local nonprofits need your help with homemade masks for their staff and clients. To help meet this critical need, we have created the Homemade Mask Drive, in the hopes of providing much-needed masks to the underserved in our community. CLICK HERE to get started.
- Food Drives - FeedMore WNY needs our help now more than ever. Equal access to food is an issue that will continue throughout the pandemic. Visit feedmorewny.org to learn how you can help.
2. Sign up for UWBEC emails and Stay Connected all year.
3. Download your Summer of Caring Bingo card and play along over the next eight weeks.
4. Visit VolunteerWNY.org to see what volunteer opportunities are available in our community. Create your profile to set your interests and preferences.
BONUS: Learn more about Advocacy and what it means to United Way by watching the video below. Over the next eight weeks, we will include opportunities for you to advocate on issues that impact our entire community.
1. Become a volunteer tax preparer. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program provides low- and moderate-income individuals and families with free, reliable tax preparation assistance. Here in Erie County, VITA clients received over $12 million in refunds. These refunds are important because families can use the money to buy groceries, pay bills, and build emergency savings. We are already recruiting volunteers for the next tax season.
2. Advocacy Action: The emergence of COVID-19 caused more families to experience economic strain and the demand for free, reliable tax preparation services is increasing. In order to meet that demand, VITA sites across the country need an additional $12 million in emergency funding. With our easy to use tool let your elected officials know you want them to support additional funding for VITA services locally.
3. Financial Resources: We’re fighting to put every person in Buffalo & Erie County on a path toward financial well-being. That starts with access to services, job training, credit counseling, and money management programs. Explore the resources we have shared to help get on the path to financial well-being.
My Smart Money: My Smart Money™ is an interactive web site that offers simple, useful tips and tools to help all of you manage your money. You can get smarter about your money by taking a quick and easy quiz to get a clear picture of your financial situation, and where you could improve and download tools that are geared to help tackle your specific money challenges.
COVID-19 Financial Resilience Hub: The Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center offers suggestions and resources to manage personal finances and buffer yourself against the financial emergency caused by COVID-19.
PRESENTED BY: NATIONAL GRID - WATCH THEIR WELCOME VIDEO
1. Grassroots Gardens (United Way Funded Program Partner) - Grassroots Gardens of WNY is a dedicated group of community gardeners and activists. Their mission is to share knowledge, power, and resources to grow healthy food, heal systemic harm, and strengthen neighborhood connections through community gardens. What's a beneficial insect and why are they good for your garden? Go on a scavenger hunt in your neighborhood to find these good bugs and learn more about how to attract them to your garden
Here are several more activities you can do during Summer of Caring to support a healthy environment. Get started using the buttons below.
2. Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper - Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper protects and restores our water and surrounding ecosystems in Western New York for the benefit of current and future generations. They transformed their weekend-long Spring Shoreline Sweep into the Summer Sweep. Get outside and complete a solo sweep and do your part to keep our local water clean. Get started using the buttons below.
In addition to participating in the Summer Sweep, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper supplied a few other ways you can help the environment. Check them out below.
PRESENTED BY: HSBC - WATCH THEIR WELCOME VIDEO
1. Build your own Born Learning Trail at home. Born Learning Trails give parents and their children opportunities to engage in fun, physical learning activities in any outdoor or indoor setting. The interactive trail contains signs with instructions for simple games that prompt any adult into turning an everyday moment into a learning opportunity. If you can't get to one of our three Born Learning Trails download our virtual Born Learning Trail and set one up in your home or backyard.
2. EPIC: Every Person Influences Children (United Way Funded Program Partner) - Participate in virtual storytelling during “Storytime at Canalside: The Virtual Chapter”. Join EPIC every Wednesday at 11 am to hear a story read live by a guest reader that aligns with a weekly theme. EPIC will live stream from the Great Lawn at Canalside and the video will be available on their Facebook and YouTube pages permanently for families to enjoy at their leisure.
Learn about reading and developing literacy skills with children by exploring EPIC’s Ready, Set, Read! Program.
3. Check out our list of easy activities to do with kids age three to five. United Way of Buffalo & Erie County invests in quality early childhood education programs in our community. Many parents have their kids at home right now and might be searching for ways to keep them engaged and entertained. We put our knowledge of childhood development to work and created a list of easy activities to do with kids age three to five.
PRESENTED BY: GEICO - WATCH THEIR WELCOME VIDEO
1. Sign up for the Five Day Racial Equity Challenge. The COVID-19 pandemic has further revealed to us the inequities that are deeply rooted in our systems and institutions. Over five days, you will explore difficult topics like structural racism, segregation, and privilege to open up dialogue on how we can be champions of equity in our personal and professional lives.
2. Advocate for emergency funding for 211WNY. Since the COVID-19 crisis began 211s have been fielding 300 - 400%, on average, more calls than usual. Most calls are from people who need financial assistance, food, and housing. Based on call volume trends, there will be an increase in demand for support from 211 throughout the next 6-12 months, which is well beyond the current capacity of the 211 system. An emergency appropriation of $150 million is needed to build 211’s capacity to respond to millions of calls from Americans in need of health and financial assistance and support during and long after the COVID-19 pandemic.
3. Send a thank you card to an essential worker. United Way is partnering with local companies, hospitals, and other organizations to get these notes in front of the essential workers who show up every day for us. Share your appreciation for our essential workers on the frontline serving and supporting our community during this challenging time.
4. Register to vote. Already registered? Sign the pledge to vote in November. From your local school board to the U.S. Senate, it’s important to vote in every election. United Way Worldwide is working with When We All Vote to make sure every eligible person is registered to vote.
1. Advocacy Action: Request the Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Jr. reverse the Census Bureau's announcement that it intends to drastically cut short the 2020 Census. Philanthropic leaders from across the country believe that the additional month is needed to complete the count; nearly four in ten households were still yet to be counted at the beginning of August.
2. Respond to the census. It’s not too late to get counted. The goal of the census is to count every person living in the United States, once, only once and in the right place. Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution mandates that this population and housing count occur every 10 years. Census data guide how more than $675 billion of federal funding is distributed to states and communities each year.
3. Already completed the census? Spread the word and get your friends and family involved. You can inspire others. Tell everyone—your friends and family, neighbors and co-workers—that you will complete the census, and that they should respond now, too. Download a challenge image, or create a custom image of your own, to share with your friends and followers on social media.
4. Learn how the census impacts our community. School lunches. Plans for highways. Support for firefighters and families in need. Census results affect your community every day. The results of the 2020 Census will help determine how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding flow into communities every year for the next decade. That funding shapes many different aspects of every community, no matter the size, no matter the location.
PRESENTED BY: WEGMANS - WATCH THEIR WELCOME VIDEO
1. Advocacy Action: Request that Congress temporarily increase monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for families by 15 percentage points through the end of the pandemic and economic crisis. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a spike in families experiencing food insecurity and 14 million children are still not getting enough to eat. Families need SNAP's help to ensure they can access healthy and nutritious food.
2. Get up and get moving using activities from our CATCH program. Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) creates an environment that makes healthy decisions fun. The fun and engaging curriculum encourages healthy eating and physical activity for children in grades K-8. Follow the links below to view instruction videos on CATCH exercises at home and learn how to teach your kids about GO, SLOW, and WOAH foods.
3. Find your healthy eating style and enhance your overall nutrition. MyPlate offers ideas and tips to help you create a healthier eating style that meets your individual needs and improves your health. Test your knowledge of food and nutrition and learn how to make healthy choices.
4. Take a Mental Health First Aid class. Mental Health First Aid is an evidence-based training that follows the National Council for Behavioral Health standards and gives you the skills you need to reach out and provide initial support to someone and help connect them to the appropriate care. Compeer is offering a free mental health first aid class to 20 people on September 30th. Registration is required. Click here for the informational flyer.
5. Take the pledge to end the stigma around mental illness. Words are powerful. That’s why we’re asking people like you to take the Pledge to End Stigma. Join a group of thought leaders and difference-makers who are working to change public perceptions about mental health. Pledge to End Stigma and help create a new dialogue about mental health.
If you are currently experiencing a mental health crisis please call Crisis Services at (716) 834-3131.
WEEK EIGHT: PAY IT FORWARD WEEK
1. Throughout Summer of Caring, you have learned about our community's most critical needs. Now is your opportunity to Pay it Forward and ensure the work continues. Choose a Pay it Forward Package to support the work of the United Way and together we can rebuild an equitable and more resilient Buffalo & Erie County.
2. Advocacy Action: Tell your representatives you want them to expand charitable giving incentives to make it easier for nonprofits to receive donations. A charitable deduction is when taxpayers make a donation to a qualified nonprofit and then deduct that donation on their taxes. This deduction is only possible if the taxpayer is also itemizing instead of taking the standard deduction. The third coronavirus relief bill which passed at the end of March included a temporary charitable deduction that allows taxpayers to deduct $300 of donations made during 2020 on their federal taxes, even if the taxpayer does not itemize their taxes. It increases the amount of the donation that can be deducted and it ensures that all taxpayers who donate to nonprofits are able to deduct their donations from their federal taxes even if they do not itemize.