By Michelle Reese

As the novel coronavirus continues to spread and restrictions in our area increase, it’s easy to feel disconnected from the community. But many of us are also wondering what we can do to help, while still respecting the “rules” of social distancing. Here’s a list of some ways you can help small businesses, your neighbors, and just help foster a sense of community during this time of relative isolation. After all, we are all in this together!

Shop Small

You know at Happenings Media that we ALWAYS love to support our small, local businesses. But this is a time where they can really use some extra love. While many businesses are going to temporarily close during this time, there will be some that stay open. Consider shopping them before visiting the big name stores. In addition to helping out a “mom & pop” spot, they’re likely to be less crowded and might even have more in stock! If you can’t shop in person, see if they have an online or takeout option.

Our Happening List is a useful resource when looking for great local businesses to support.

Buy Gift Cards, Shop Later

This dramatic drop in business can be devastating for small businesses especially. One bad month could make all the difference. Think of a few of your favorite places, especially ones that you probably would have visited during this time anyway, like restaurants, nail and hair salons, etc. Contact the business by visiting their social pages, website or calling directly, and see if you can buy gift cards to use later. The business will get the financial boost now, and you’ll have something to look forward to when activities resume.

Order Takeout or Delivery

Restaurants are closed for dine-in services, but quite a few local spots are offering take-out and delivery options. Pick a night (or more) to treat the family to a meal prepared by the pros. You could even turn it into a fun activity with the kids (or a home date night) by making tweaks in your house to feel more restaurant-like. Some ideas include getting out the fancy dishes, tablecloth and candles usually reserved for holidays, playing background music, setting out coloring pages for the kids during appetizers, or getting dressed up for the meal.

Here are just some of the Hunterdon County spots currently offering takeout/delivery:

Duke’s Pizzeria & Restaurant (Pittstown), 2019 Hunterdon Happening List Winner for Pizza
Market Pizza (Stockton), 2019 Hunterdon Happening List Finalist for Pizza
Viva Mexico (Flemington), 2019 Hunterdon Happening List Finalist for Mexican
Chelseas Restaurant and Pub (Lebanon), 2019 Hunterdon Happening List Winner for Burger
Harper’s Table (Annandale), 2019 Hunterdon Happening List Finalist for Burger
Bamboo House (Frenchtown), 2019 Hunterdon Happening List Winner for Sushi
Frenchtown Fresh (Frenchtown), 2019 Hunterdon Happening List Winner for Healthy

NOTE: Getting takeout or delivery isn’t JUST for restaurants! Some local businesses are altering their services to offer options outside of the in-house experience.

Share Hoarded Sanitizer with Local Businesses (or Others in Need!)

Many of us went out and bought a lot of hand sanitizer when word started getting out about COVID-19. And now that you’re mostly home with plenty of access to soap and water, you might not need as much as you thought you did! If you have extra, consider dropping it off at a local business that could use it – either for employees to use in between hand washing or for customers that might come in to pick something up.

Leave a Review

Show your favorite local spots some love with a positive review! This doesn’t cost you anything, is sure to make them smile, and it helps other people know of your great experience when things are open again. Here are a few places to leave reviews/comments: Facebook, Angie’s List, Foursquare, OpenTable and Yelp.

Donate to Your Local Food Bank

With school closures and the increase in workers getting by on fewer hours than normal, there could be added demands on food banks. To make things even harder, many housing groups and pantries are closing or operating under restrictions to ensure the health and safety of their teams and the public.

Flemington Area Food Pantry is one of the food banks that is still open and asking for help. According to their Facebook page, they could use help with preparing Student Protein and Snack Bags for children home from school. Include: Box of crackers, peanut butter (2 jars), canned fruit (3 cans), canned tuna or chicken (2 cans), mac n cheese (2 boxes), water (2 bottles) small bags of snacks (3 bags). Drop off at the side door from Monday through Thursday between 9 a.m. and noon.

Reach Out to At Risk Neighbors

We know, it might not be the time to invite your neighbor over for dinner. But sometimes it’s as simple as calling your neighbor to see if there’s anything they need. Many older people might feel scared to go to stores right now. You can offer to pick up some groceries, or help them arrange delivery. If your neighborhood has an online message board or networking platform like the nextdoor app, you can reach out to people that way to see if there are ways you can help.

Stay In Touch (from Afar)

While we’re all probably seeing a lot of posts lamenting about being trapped home with the whole family, this can also be a very lonely time. And we’re all likely to go a little stir crazy!

Make a point to stay connected with people. Maybe it’s starting a group text with other moms in your situation to share ideas/pics of what you’re doing with the kids that day. Or help set up FaceTime dates (if they’re not old enough that they’re already doing it) for your children and friends they’re missing.  Try having a remote book club with some friends where you all pick a book to read during this time and then set up an online chat to talk about it. Play online games together. Write emails. We’re in a time where a lot of people rely on quick texts and only use email for work-related needs. How about you sit down and write a thoughtful email to a friend or relative. You know, a virtual pen pal.

During this time, think especially of friends and relatives that may be older, single, or live alone when you’re looking to connect.

Clean Out, Pass Along

The warmer weather and extra time at home, makes this the perfect time for some major spring cleaning. In addition to cleaning windows and washing floors, purge those closets, garages and attics. Then bag things up to donate. Some places might not be staffed to accept donations at this time, but they’re sure to appreciate them when things calm down.

Here are some places to consider: Vietnam Veterans of America, Purple Heart, Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity ReStore

Make a Donation

Along with festivals, concerts, sporting events and parades being cancelled, there are also many fundraising events that are no longer happening. For many groups, this could make a huge difference in their funding. If you were already planning to attend one of these events, consider still making a donation. And if you didn’t have anything on your calendar, take this extra time you probably have on your hands, and find a local group that you’d love to support.

Check out our 2019 Charity category in the Happening List for some ideas of places to support.

Stock Up, Then Stop

Of course, get what you need. But if you already have enough toilet paper, cleaning supplies, food, etc. to meet your family’s needs for 30 days, then stop buying these items. Panic shopping contributes to shortages, stress for store employees, and in the end – more panic.

And … Smile and Wave!

It’s likely that people are feeling a little more on edge than usual these days. When you DO see other people, try to spread some good will. (From 6 feet away.)

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Basil Bandwagon Sept 2018 British Swim School Access Pass

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