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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought economic hardship to America like nothing since the Great Depression. Tough times mean that social problems that existed before the outbreak are made worse as people struggle to meet basic needs, such as paying rent and buying food.

That, in turn, means that groups who work with organizations like animal rescue, homeless shelters, and food pantries see donations fall off while the need for their services skyrockets. When money is tight, giving more to these groups can be difficult. For those who still want to help, volunteering is not just the next best thing to a cash donation — sometimes it’s even better.

Some of the best place to volunteer during these challenging times are:

Humane Society or Local Animal Shelter

Animal shelters report that pandemic-related delays in adoptions have grown significantly. Simultaneously, more people are being forced to give up their pets as they lack the funds to feed and care for them. Animal shelters are in great need of cash. However, they also need volunteers to come on-site to help care for dogs, cats, and other critters who need care, from cleaning their cages to taking them for walks and helping them get fed. Helping our beloved furry friends who give us so much love provides a beautiful service to society.

Food Pantries

Perhaps the hardest hit of all charitable resources is our nation’s food pantries. We frequently see on the daily news long rows or cars and lines of people showing up to obtain food in these challenging times. Servicing all these people takes more than money. It takes people power on the ground to help distribute food, organize storage, clean facilities, and more. Volunteering here is work that one can feel incredibly useful.

Red Cross

It’s easy to sign up as a volunteer with the Red Cross. Just go to this organization’s website and fill out an easy-to-find application. You can quickly create a profile and select from one of the several activities where help is needed. They conduct blood drives, provide crisis support, and educational opportunities. The Red Cross is among the oldest volunteer organizations in America.

For more ideas about where to volunteer, consider visiting the Volunteers of America website.