How to give back to your community during the pandemic

Rice’s Center for Civic Leadership provides resources for volunteerism

As Houston and the world continues staying home to curb the spread of the coronavirus, people are searching for ways to give back while staying safe. Whether it’s sewing masks, donating to food banks or just staying home — opportunities to help abound.

Rice’s Center for Civic Leadership (CCL) teaches students to understand the complexity of social issues, their roles as active members of society, and how to create equitable and inclusive communities. Shawn Reagan, assistant director at the CCL, hosted a webinar April 20 on volunteer opportunities through the lens of the center’s philosophy: Everyone has a resource to offer.

Credit: University

“The best way to engage with others is to value the assets that everyone has and seek to support and strengthen those,” Reagan said. Instead of looking at the needs or deficiencies of a community, he suggests starting with the strengths. Identifying resources within yourself will guide you to volunteer opportunities that not only help the community, but can create feelings of community within yourself.

Volunteering from home can include not only making donations, but also using professional skills to help organizations and nonprofits — sharing your time, skills and energy. Reagan created a living document to compile needs in the area, which can be accessed by visiting

Willing to make deliveries? Starting with local mutual aid networks, the informal arrangements that develop naturally in communities can direct you to elderly neighbors or essential employees that can use the help, according to Reagan.

Giving back doesn’t mean focusing strictly on the pandemic, Reagan said. He suggested working on the 2020 census and helping Public Agenda or Youth for Climate as ways to make a difference on a larger scale.

Reagan also discussed taking care of yourself during this unusual time of isolation. The SAFE Office at Rice is offering a series of workshops on “Socially Distanced Mindfullness Practice.” The Rice Wellbeing and Counseling Center is offering support (via phone and online) as well as mental health resources.

“Your first priority is to take care of you and your family,” he said.

About Avery Ruxer Franklin

Avery is a media relations specialist in the Office of Public Affairs.