A new website offers a variety of resources for Ottawa County residents who are looking to offer help and those in need of a little support throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) event.

As part of the Ottawa County Department of Public Health joint press conference on Monday, the first of daily briefings until further notice, Patrick Cisler spoke about the website and resources available within the county. Cisler is the executive director of the Lakeshore Nonprofit Alliance and Community S.P.O.K.E., created out of the partnership between the county and the alliance to tackle challenges in the health and human services sector.

“I’m here representing a strong network of government and nonprofit agencies that came together in response to the human services needs that we know will increase with COVID-19,” he said. “A group of us started meeting last Friday and the first thing we did was launch a website that went live on Saturday.”

Careottawacounty.com, Cisler said, offers different ways for the community to get involved through three different links. Through these links, people can volunteer, donate goods and donate financially.

“The link for volunteering will go to the Greater Ottawa County United Way’s website,” Cisler said.

He noted the second link, for donating goods, will direct people to five agencies representing some of the more populated areas in Ottawa County, such as Community Action House, Holland; Harvest Stand Ministries, Zeeland; Love in Action of the Tri-Cities; Love INC of Allendale; and Love INC of Southeast Ottawa County, Hudsonville. From there, visitors to the website will find a list of the top 10 items each agency currently needs or anticipates needing in the coming weeks.

“Please consider donating goods,” Cisler said. “We will continue to update that with additional food and household items that may be needed and additional agencies that may need those items.”

For people hoping to donate financially, a link provides the option to give to the Emergency Human Needs Funds set up through the local United Way and community foundations.

“We know it’s going to take more than in-kind goods to weather this,” Cisler said. “We have three amazing funders in our community – the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area, the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation and the Greater Ottawa County United Way – who have already pooled money, $85,000 to begin with, to help address some of these emergency needs. They are providing some funds to the nonprofits and agencies in the area that we know are going to be hit first with human services needs.”

A link on the website also is available for people seeking assistance during this event. The link will direct people to a webpage or to call 211, where they can find locations to receive services or can have questions answered.

“This human services response team will continue to meet daily and address what issues are out there as we are able,” Cisler said. “We would encourage you to step up and help your neighbors by volunteering, donating goods and donating financially.”

Shannon Behm, vice president of volunteer engagement for the Greater Ottawa County United Way, noted during Monday’s press conference that the area has mobilized approximately 200 volunteers in a short amount of time. She said this is a testament to the residents of Ottawa County.

“With this influx, things take time,” Behm said. “We’re in the process of background checking and vetting our volunteers. Once this is complete, we will bring them to wherever the needs may arise.”

Behm said the United Way is specifically looking for volunteers ages 18-50; however, older volunteers are still welcome but will be asked to work remotely.

“Call your neighbors, your friends and your family to check on them,” she said. “We are in constant contact with agencies to make sure we capture as many needs as possible.”

Contact Meghan Haas at mhaas@grandhaventribune.com.

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