Nonprofit, independent journalism. Supported by readers.


COVID-19 is a call for more volunteerism; a local hub helps connect people to needs

HandsOn Twin Cities has set up a Volunteer Responding Hub for COVID-19 as a centralized place for nonprofits to easily update their needs and for volunteers to connect to them.

COVID-19 has changed our lives, individually and collectively.  It has made us examine what life and death mean. We have learned social distancing is tough, and we have a need to be interacting with our neighbors.

Jim Scheibel
Jim Scheibel
Each day we hear the disheartening statistics of new cases and deaths. But each day there are reports of volunteers joining the fight against the coronavirus. In New York, volunteerism has increased 288 percent. Local stories each day report volunteers feeding the hungry, making and donating masks, and retirees traveling across the country to help on the front line of hospitals.

In 1914 with the outbreak of World War I, people volunteered as ambulance and truck drivers, as fliers and hospital workers, as doctors and nurses. The Red Cross mobilized 8 million volunteers, and, and during the Second World War, 7.5 volunteers provided service to the military. Today, the Red Cross is mobilizing people to fight this war.

The impact and contributions of volunteers during this national and global crisis we see is so important. We witness people crossing the political divide to come together for a common good. Volunteerism unites us.

Article continues after advertisement

The Twin Cities, the No. 1 metropolitan area for volunteerism, was the home of the first volunteer center in the country.  HandsOn Twin Cities continues that tradition and work today.

Tracy Nielsen
Tracy Nielsen
HandsOn has set up a Volunteer Responding Hub for COVID-19 as a centralized place for nonprofits to easily update their needs and for volunteers to connect to them. There are more than 110 opportunities that range from things that can be done in person to many things that can be done from home, such as writing letters to seniors or others in isolation or making masks for local nonprofits. It’s easily accessible at

The pandemic has introduced many to the virtual world of tools like Zoom and Google Hangout. It’s easy to see that virtual volunteering is an option. Organizations are offering more opportunities for people to use their skills.  There is a need for volunteers to mentor and tutor students during stay-at-home classes.

COVID-19 is a call for continued and increased volunteerism.

Jim Scheibel, a former mayor of St. Paul, is Professor of Practice in the Management, Marketing and Public Administration Department, Hamline University. He is a former director of both AmeriCorps VISTA and the Senior Corps. Tracy Nielsen is the executive director of HandsOn Twin Cities.


If you’re interested in joining the discussion, add your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a letter or a longer-form Community Voices commentary. (For more information about Community Voices, see our Submission Guidelines.)