Five Ways to Go Grey on Black Friday

Julie H. Case

Here’s how to turn the biggest shopping day of the year into a do-gooder’s holiday from the comfort of the couch or within the community.

Black Friday may be America’s biggest shopping day of the year, but with the pandemic in full force, social distancing protocols in place across the U.S., and the CDC listing shopping in a crowded store on, before, or right after Thanksgiving as a high-risk activity, many are looking for other ways to spend the day.

For some, that means anything from putting the miles in when the streets and trails are less crowded to serving their community. For many Team Rubicon volunteers, that kind of service is an everyday experience—it’s a way of turning any day grey. This year, many are finding ways amplify that service even more. Here are five ways to go grey for good this Black Friday.

Get Crafty: Build a Free Little Pantry and Stock it With Essentials

Sure, you could shop until you drop, or you could put your energy into stocking a pantry for someone else this Black Friday by building a lending library, of sorts.

What started as a great way to share great reads with neighbors has turned into a way to provide essentials to families in need during the pandemic. Instead of stocking books, Americans are stocking these little street-side pantries with shelf-stable food and supplies (like toilet paper) instead.

With winter coming, and another surge in the pandemic on the horizon, there’s no better time to build, and stock, a lending library—whether it’s with food and essentials like toilet paper, or with winter clothing, like hats, gloves, socks, and more for neighbors in need.

As Mike and Alexis Piet did when they set up a free little pantry in their Texas neighborhood in March, free little pantries can be built from reclaimed resources, such as discarded cabinets, or by hand. The Little Free Pantry blog provides resources and some plans.

Once you’ve spent the day constructing a free little pantry, place it in a well-trafficked area that grants people easy access, without having to enter someone else’s property. And, consider advertising it sites like Netxdoor or in Facebook groups. If you’re looking for help keeping it stocked, consider accepting donations. Allowing others to contribute what they can—whether that’s handmade face masks or cash—can allow the entire community to engage.

Coordinate a Food (or Clothing) Drive

Diane Halle, a volunteer out of Chicago, IL, recently coordinated a massive—and massively successful—food drive on behalf of her church.

The trick, according to Halle, is acquiring food and supplies. To solve for this Halle approached stores in her community and the surrounds—including Costco and Fairplay—and asked for donations. “You have to find somebody to donate because it’s expensive trying to do it out of your own pocket,” says Halle.

Her leg work paid off. The organization pulled together enough food donations to host three different distributions. At one point, the group even rented a truck to gather what had been donated.

To notify the community that the food drive was on, Halle and the group posted signs and flyers on the church and, perhaps most importantly, they advertised the days and times they would be handing out food on Facebook. It worked. Over the course of three different days they served 5,000 people. And, they did so from a safe distance: pick-ups were drive-through only. When a patron would pull up, volunteers like Halle would place the supplies in the car for them.

On Black Friday, Help a Neighbor Out

Split firewood. Rake the lawn. Help a neighbor clear brush. Whatever you want to do, spending part of Black Friday helping neighbors in need can allow you to maintain social distance while also giving back. This fall, Steven Carriere and four other Team Rubicon volunteers assisted a disabled, blind Air Force veteran with mowing, brush cutting, and property maintenance. Earlier this year, in Phoenix, AZ, Cathie Zimmerman went to deliver a lawnmower to a woman, and ended up mowing, trimming trees, and more.

With so many people out of work, caring for lawns and neighborhoods can be the last thing on the list. “They’re trying to keep up with all kinds of things,” says Zimmerman, whether it be navigating unemployment, homeschooling children, or protecting their own compromised health. “If I can do these tasks, I am happy and excited to.”

Join a (Virtual) Turkey Trot

Staying fit: it’s a thing, even in the pandemic. Yet with virtually every organized sport and race in the nation on hiatus—including that beloved annual Turkey Trot—staying motivated or engaged can be hard. Enter the virtual race. Instead of sweating alongside hundreds of others, runners and walkers can now compete on their own schedules. And, since the Turkey Trot has gone virtual you can join a race anywhere in the nation.

To compete, just look for challenges in apps such as Strava (even Team Rubicon has one), on sites such as EventBrite, or within your local community. Those looking to put their fitness (or competitive spirit) to good use can also raise funds for their favorite charity, or register for a race that already benefits an organization like Feeding America.

Put Your Shopping Dollars Where Your Heart Is

During this pandemic Black Friday, some people are spending their money on things besides just consumables: They’re reupping commitments to causes close to the heart and donating to everything from food banks to disaster relief organizations, like Team Rubicon.

For its part, Team Rubicon plans to put the funds it raises when people go grey on Black Friday to work buying different kinds of presents—think everything from chainsaws to clear wildfire debris to all the tarps, nails, and furring needed to put waterproof temporary roofs over the heads of 2020’s hurricane survivors.

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