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Coronavirus in Rochester

How you can help, in all different ways


If you can write an email, you can help. If you can make a phone call, you could save a life.
With so much need, there are all sorts of ways to make a difference — whether you're ready to go out and volunteer or would rather stay home and offer help.

We've gathered some things you can do — even some your kids can help with in their free time.
And if you know of a way to help, send an email with the subject line COVID Rochester Ways to Help to

Make vital phone calls
Hotline calls: Monroe County's coronavirus hotline is, understandably inundated. Medical and nonmedical volunteers are needed to return calls to people who didn’t leave enough information when leaving a message or who have a question that can be answered using a script that will be provided to volunteers. In some cases, this could involve explaining to people how likely they are to be at risk, or calling people under quarantine to log their daily temperatures. Time commitment: at least 10 hours a week for the next two or three months. To inquire: send an email to

Connect with those who need it most
Compeer Rochester connects volunteers with people who are experiencing mental health challenges for friendship and mentoring. Volunteers have said they get as much out of the experience as the people they're mentoring. Compeer is now recruiting volunteers to make connections via phone and video chat.

"We hope many of these 'matches' will turn into in-person visits once the virus crisis ends," said President/Executive Director Sara Passamonte. Volunteers can call (585) 546-8280 or visit Select the program you want and a volunteer coordinator will get in touch to start the process.

Compeer is providing screening and training through video chat. Volunteers must be 18 or older; clients/participants are ages 5 and older, and volunteers can choose between youth/young adult populations and adult/older adult populations. 

Send encouragement 
Help patients and workers: Imagine being hospitalized but unable to see your loved ones because a face-to-face meeting could mean infection with COVD-19. And imagine the stress on health care workers on the front lines, risking their own health to help others.

Rochester Regional Health is asking for volunteers to share uplifting photo and video messages with patients who can no longer have visitors, and health care teams who could use encouragement. Kids can help in creating these messages.

If you use social media, you can post videos and photos with the hashtag #RRHspreadjoy, and Rochester Regional will share your messages of inspiration to people who need it most. You can also send emails of thanks and encouragement to:

Items and outreach for elders
Lifespan needs donations of personal care items (toilet paper, paper towels and cleaning/sanitizing items). The organization, which assists those over 60, is also collecting cards — handmade or store bought — and letters of cheer for residents in nursing homes or adult living facilities who can't see their loved ones. Deliver any of these items to the vestibule of their main office, 1900 S. Clinton Avenue in Tops Brighton Plaza, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. 

Lifespan also needs volunteers to make friendly phone calls to isolated older adults. If you're interested, send an email to

Donate items for mothers
For 16 years, Mothers In Need of Others (MINO) has run an emergency assistance program in Rochester. MINO works with nearly 100 agencies and churches who are helping families in need, assisting when their supplies run low. During the pandemic, the group has been helping dozens of families needing emergency aid.

MINO is in need of baby care items, personal and feminine hygiene products, cleaning supplies and paper products to provide their clients. If you can donate any of these, send an email to or call (585) 348-8596."

Donate all sorts of supplies
The United Way has a webpage compiling volunteer opportunities and also nonprofit groups that are in need of monetary donations and all sorts of supplies, from laundry detergent to kids' clothes. Groups like Willow Domestic Violence Center, The Salvation Army, The Community Place, Ibero-American Action League and many more have their list of items needed on the site. It's an easy way to find what you can offer to those in need. 

Sew masks to help stop the spread
Hundreds of people who know their way around a needle and thread have been working for the cause. The University of Rochester Medical Center has online instructions for making masks: go to

You can donate your homemade masks to URMC. For safety, it's important to package them in a clean plastic bag, cardboard box or other sealed container, with a label on the outside with your name, the contents and quantity and your email or phone number.

Drop your container off between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at 40 Celebration Drive, Rochester, using the College Town Courtyard lot; enter through the double-doors with the “Donation” signs on them and place your donation on the table at right upon entering the space.If you have questions or problems, call (585) 275-2420 or email

HCR Home Care, which provides home health services, also needs masks to protect its workers. If you want to volunteer to sew masks, contact Laura Bartolotti, send and email to to receive directions.

Deliver, sort supplies and more
The need is so great, Monroe County has formed a "Catchall Taskforce" to help with food delivery, clerical work, receiving supplies and other tasks that arise as needs shift. If you can help, send an email to to find out what's needed now.

Give blood
It's always a way to help save lives, but now more than ever. Visit the Red Cross website to find where you can give blood or call (800) 733-2767 to find local sites. If you have had COVID-19 and have fully recovered, your blood contains antibodies that fight the virus, so you can help by contacting the Red Cross to offer a plasma donation.

Donate money, anywhere
Most every nonprofit and business can use some support. USA TODAY has launched this Support Local website for several cities, including Rochester, as a portal to buy gift certificates for local businesses such as restaurants and salons that can't operate normally during the pandemic. Buy now to help them stay in business, and visit later at a time when things reopen and we'll all need to celebrate.  

Support health systems. 
University of Rochester, Rochester Regional Health, nonprofit groups — the list of entities who are helping to keep people well is long, and so is the list of ways they've depleted their supplies and budgets. Look up causes you care about and donate what you can. 

Translate Spanish at a food pantry
The Food Pantry at Memorial AME Zion Church, 549 Clarissa St., has non-English-speaking visitors, so volunteers are needed to translate Spanish from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays. Contact Carmen Allen, (585) 520-6004, with questions or to sign up. 

Tip a bartender online
Restaurant and bar employees were hit especially hard when large gatherings were banned early on in the pandemic. Iron Smoke Distillery in Fairport came up with a clever way to help bartenders who are out of work. 

The bartenders have posted drink recipes on a special bartenders benefit website, and links provide a way to "tip" them for their recipe. Mix up their drinks and send a little cash — it's the next best thing to being generous while sitting at the bar. 

Pack food to help the hungry
Foodlink and The United Way have partnered to provide thousands of emergency food boxes to those in need. Volunteers will soon be needed to pack additional food boxes at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center, which is large enough to allow for safe social distancing.

The Department of Health has certain restrictions on volunteers, such as needing to be between the ages of 16 and 60 and showing no signs of illness or fever. Shifts for the first week of April have been filled but more volunteers will be needed soon. For more information or to sign up for the volunteer waitlist, visit the Foodlink website. If you sign up, Foodlink will notify you when volunteers are needed.

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