Reengage with Community in a Post Pandemic World

2021 Summer to Shine Series, Part 3

As regions across North America come out from under Covid restrictions, our options for getting together are becoming more plentiful. Businesses are reopening, concerts are back on the calendar, and people are traveling. But, after more than a year of isolation, social distancing, and masking, it might be difficult to decide how to start rebuilding your in-person connections. Here are some ways to get back out in the world and strengthen each of the communities that touch your life.

Finding Your Way Back to “In Person” Everything

If you’re finding it hard to jump right back into packed venues and crowded restaurants, you’re not alone. Many people have reported hesitancy to return to environments they once considered normal. Here are some ways to ease into the fun so you can rebuild your community:

  • Restaurants: Many eateries offer outdoor seating. Invite a friend to join you for a meal. If possible, get a reservation. Many restaurants are overwhelmed with demand and under staffed.
  • In-home Entertaining: Grab some fresh ingredients and fire up the grill. Invite your guests to socialize in the yard. Make it more festive with fun string lights or tiki torches.
  • Social Events: Rules are changing constantly, so avoid frustration by checking ahead on mask or vaccination requirements. Private businesses may have rules that differ from city or county mandates. Remember that masks aren’t being prohibited, so if you feel more comfortable masking in public, go ahead!
  • Concerts and Sporting Events: Choose a sport with a venue that fits your comfort level. Outdoor races, swim meets, baseball games, and soccer matches all offer a great way to socialize in fresh air.
  • Go Hybrid: Many events—plays, concerts, sports, and more—are being offered as hybrids, with both in-person and virtual attendance options. Not only can you attend things in far-flung places, you can also save on travel expenses. Plan a special night at home, but keep the social rewards high by hosting a few close friends.

Say Thanks to Frontline Workers

While many of us worked from home this past year, there were many more who could not. Postal workers, medical professionals, librarians, and teachers (just to name a few) worked hard under stressful conditions to help keep life running. Let them know you appreciate them with a short note or a small gift. Or, just say thank you the next time you see them. You never know how much a small gesture can mean to someone.

Volunteer in Your Community

Unfortunately, the need for many assistance programs has increased and organizations in your area may be straining to keep up. Volunteering at a food pantry, outreach center, homeless shelter, or community closet is a great way to give back to the groups hit hardest by the last year’s isolation and economic turbulence.

Not sure where to start? Websites like and can help match you up with available opportunities. Choose a cause you feel passionate about and feel great knowing you’re making a difference in your community.
For an added bonus, plan to volunteer with your friends or with a few members of your work team.

Donate to Causes You Care About

Donating is a great way to strengthen a community you care about. Chances are good that your excess possessions align with one of your passions or values. And just like volunteering, raising donations is a great activity to share with your friends, neighbors, and coworkers.

  • Clothing- Go through your closet and get rid of anything you haven’t worn in the last year. Business and business casual attire are especially helpful for people trying to reenter the workforce. Donations can be made to homeless and domestic violence shelters to ensure they help the people who need it the most.
  • Hygiene Supplies- Items such as shampoo, soap, and toothpaste are always welcome, but consider donating items other people might not think about. Toothbrushes, dental floss, cotton swabs, lip balm, lotion, and sunscreen are great items to include. Or, make it a family activity and bundle travel sized products into hygiene kits!
  • Food- Food pantries and community kitchens are always in need of food donations. Most people donate dry and canned goods but check to see if your local pantry accepts perishables. Milk, eggs, and butter are usually ingredients needed to prepare the dry goods, so consider donating those as well as cheese, deli meats, and fresh produce.
  • Books- Books can be donated to libraries, shelters, hospital waiting rooms, and even schools (be sure they are age appropriate). Or, instead of donating, consider setting up a free little library!
  • Toys- Toys can make a world of difference to a child. Donate new or gently used toys to shelters or the pediatric wing of your local hospital. Ronald McDonald House is another organization that provides lodging and meals to families with medically fragile children. Toys can be donated to them for both the medically ill child, as well as siblings staying in the House.
  • Baby Items- Contact your local women’s shelters and ask if they need baby items such as diapers, baby wipes, formula, jars of baby food, diaper rash cream, swaddling blankets, and onesies.
  • Pet Supplies- Humans aren’t the only ones with needs. Consider donating food, toys, blankets, litter, collars, leashes, and food/water dishes to shelters, for both people and animals.
  • Money- When in doubt, making a monetary donation is always welcome!

Many donations are tax deductible, so if you choose to donate goods, ask if they provide documentation of your donation for tax purposes.
These are just a few ways to transition back into your community. Whether you need to dip a toe in or you’re ready to go all in, remember to be gentle with yourself and those around you. We’re all figuring this out together.

Read More in Our Summer to Shine Series: