Volunteers across Orange County are stepping up during the Coronavirus pandemic to help out people hit hard by the stay at home order, business closures and an increase in unemployment.

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The pandemic also has sparked curiosity among many organizations, communities and individuals who are asking how they can help during this time, according to county officials.

OneOC, a nonprofit organization, might just be the one stop shop answer they are looking for.

“We have had several different nonprofits and organizations reach out to us in need of volunteer services and we do know of some that have unfortunately closed their doors due to different restrictions,” said Cassi Palmer, the Emergency Volunteer Manager for OneOC.

“What’s really unique about OneOC is that we are in partnerships with all of the nonprofits across the board who are reaching out saying, Hey, we’re in urgent need.”

The organization is managing Orange County’s Emergency Volunteer Center to support emergency response officials by directing those in the County who wish to help out to community based organizations in need of support.

The Emergency Volunteer Center was activated in March when they received calls from the County’s Emergency Operation Center (EOC) to do so.

“What that means is that we manage spontaneous or unaffiliated volunteers who are interested in participating and contributing to this particular disaster,” Palmer said.

OneOC is registering volunteers on their website. According to OneOC officials, it is important to coordinate volunteers in times of emergency to direct resources to where they are needed the most as quickly as possible.

Prospective volunteers can browse various opportunities to serve the community online, such as helping pantries provide food for the hungry. There are even virtual volunteer opportunities that are offered on the website.

Palmer said that once volunteers register through OneOC they will see all the opportunities available to them.

“They would be able to choose a volunteer opportunity based upon proximity, based upon their skill set, based upon particular events that they’re interested in.”

Opportunities that require immediate support from volunteers are labeled as “urgent need” on the website.

Nonprofits seeking volunteers can post opportunities through the Emergency Volunteer Center website. To do so they will have to complete a 30-minute webinar training first.

Andre Roberson, executive director of the Power of One Foundation, said their organization’s volunteer base has actually increased during the pandemic which he described as a blessing.

Roberson has worked with OneOC to provide some volunteers to help them with their weekly drive through food pantry that they hold every Saturday. However, he said most volunteers are from the community.

“A majority of the volunteers have been community members,” Roberson said. “They’ve known about us and just said, ‘Hey, we see you guys out here on the front line, and we want to do whatever we can to help you.’”

For information on how to volunteer with the organization click here.

Some nonprofits like Orange County United Way and Charitable Venture have created pandemic relief funds and are accepting money donations to help community based organizations.

Palmer said volunteerism is essential to meet critical needs.

“Volunteerism is really the backbone that supports our public agencies and our private businesses,” she said.

“Especially right now in this pandemic, we have such critical needs and such a sense of urgency for several of our volunteers, that in order for us to reach the appropriate audiences, to take care of our sensitive populations, to provide critical essential services volunteerism must continue.”

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC news intern. Contact him @helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

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