Volunteers load food boxes at a West Side distribution site for El Pasoans Fighting Hunger. (Photo by Raenee Young)

Volunteers and donations are desperately needed by many El Paso organizations in response to COVID-19. With so many El Pasoans homebound for the foreseeable future, there has never been a better time to consider how best to support the city’s most vulnerable community members. 

A wide range of volunteer opportunities and donation requests exist among different El Paso nonprofits and advocacy groups, but a spirit of community service begins with one’s own immediate circle.

Deborah Zuloaga, president of the United Way of El Paso County, says “we sometimes forget that we can volunteer by just asking a neighbor, if we’re on our way to the grocery store, whether we can pick something up for them. It’s incumbent on us to figure out how to volunteer in our own communities, in our faith-based communities, in our neighborhoods, to find a way to make a difference as individuals.” 

Many elderly and immuno-compromised El Pasoans have legitimate concerns about venturing out into public spaces to purchase essential goods, and might not know where to turn for help. The following organizations are in critical need of help right now.

El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank

Volunteers loaded food into hundreds of cars Wednesday at the Kelly Center for Food Relief in Central El Paso. (Robert Moore/El Paso Matters)

“We went from producing 25 emergency food boxes a day to 5500 emergency food boxes per day. Effectively, we’re now providing emergency food assistance for between 2,700 and 30,000 families a week. It is incredibly difficult for us to do that with the shortage of volunteers that we’re experiencing. We are desperate for help. Funding and volunteer support are two of the greatest needs we have here at the food bank. It’s really staggering right now, what we’re seeing.” 

Susan Goodell, CEO, El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank

Volunteers are urgently needed to pack food boxes at the warehouse and to distribute food boxes via the five drive-through distribution locations. This new distribution system incorporates safety precautions on behalf of both volunteers and food recipients, in order to minimize virus transmission risk. Volunteers can sign up online for four-hour shifts on any day of the week. Donations may be made online, and every $1 donated provides seven meals for people in need. 

Food distribution takes place Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the following locations:

Northeast: Katie’s Pantry – 4801 Sun Valley Drive

Central: Kelly Center for Hunger Relief – 915 N. Florence St. 

Lower Valley: Camino de Vida – 7822 San Jose Road

Socorro/Clint/San Elizario: El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank – 9541 Plaza Cir. (Now open 9 a.m.-3 p.m. only at this location.

West: Abundant Living Faith Center West – 7100 N. Desert Blvd.

City of El Paso Animal Services

More than 450 dogs are currently available for adoption or fostering at El Paso Animal Services. (Photo courtesy El Paso Animal Services)

“Become a foster! Fostering is completely free, you don’t have to quarantine alone. We’re also encouraging the community to donate to our pet food bank or to the foster program, because we are in need of supplies. Help by sharing our posts, or if you come across a stray pet, help that stray pet get back to its family.”

Michele Anderson, public affairs coordinator for City of El Paso Animal Services

El Paso Animal Services is actively seeking donations for their pet food bank, which helps the growing number of pet owners who are having trouble with the cost of feeding their dogs and cats. Additionally, El Paso Animal Services has waived all animal adoption fees to encourage El Pasoans to adopt pets right now, and has implemented a new virtual adoption process plus delivery service as a precaution to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Dog and cat foster parents also are needed, and there are no costs associated with fostering an animal; all food and pet supplies are provided by El Paso Animal Services. For those who are at home indefinitely and have ample time to spend with a new animal friend, now is an excellent time to consider adopting or fostering. 

The American Red Cross

“Disasters don’t stop because of COVID-19. We at the Red Cross need to get volunteers trained so that when disasters strike, we’re prepared for whatever may come. There are many ways to volunteer virtually as well, depending on which line of service you want to go into.”

Ames Davis, Executive Director, American Red Cross El Paso

The American Red Cross is currently seeking volunteers for a wide range of disaster response work. Volunteer training typically takes two weeks, and many training programs can be done virtually. 

Additionally, the FDA and American Red Cross are currently seeking plasma donations from recovered COVID-19 patients. The antibodies from plasma of recovered COVID-19 patients may be used to help critically ill patients who are currently battling the virus. 

Furthermore, the Red Cross recommends that healthy individuals who have not been exposed to COVID-19 donate blood at local blood banks, which are experiencing shortages right now because of fears associated with the pandemic. 

Clutch Virtual Tip Jar

Members of the El Paso hospitality industry have launched the EP Virtual Tip Jar campaign as a way to directly raise funds for workers who have lost their job because of COVID-19. This fundraiser is propelled through sales of t-shirts designed by local artists. When a shirt is purchased, the buyer can choose which hospitality worker they would like to directly support, then $10 from their purchase goes to that person. Remaining revenue goes toward artists and t-shirt production costs. 

Hospitality industry workers (restaurant, bar, coffee shop, venues/theaters, hotel, museums, flight attendants, etc.) can register here if they would like to be eligible for direct support using the virtual tip jar. 

United Way of El Paso County /Volunteer El Paso

“Volunteerism has changed dramatically over the last two and a half weeks. The number one need right now is for the food bank and the food pantries. The distributions have been tremendous. The need for sorting the food and the need for handing out food has been overwhelming. What we’re doing is trying to find individuals willing to help.”

Deborah Zuloaga, president of the United Way of El Paso County

United Way of El Paso County’s volunteer portal, Volunteer El Paso, directs users to numerous local volunteer opportunities, including El Pasoans Fighting Hunger, the City of El Paso Census 2020, the American Red Cross, and more. However,  Zuloaga cautions that the top volunteer need right now is at the food bank, providing food to the thousands of families and individuals who are in need.

Cover photo of the El Pasoans Fighting Hunger food distribution center at Abundant Living Faith Center West courtesy of Raenee Young,

René Kladzyk is a freelance reporter who also performs music as Ziemba. Follow her on Twitter @ziembavision.