Good Saturday, everyone! May is Mental Health Awareness Month and there are more people than normal, right now, dealing with mental health issues due to the quarantine.

The COVID-19 is affecting all of us, just in different ways. No one is excluded and with all of us in this together, we need to look outside of our own situation to help where we can for others. With only 30-plus cases out of 78,000 residents in Vermilion County, very few of us need to be medically cared for. I don’t have the numbers of individuals unemployed due to the virus, but I know it is a whole lot more than cases.

So, whether sick, unemployed, or just isolated, we are all facing mental health challenges. One of the best ways to make yourself feel better is to do something for others without expecting anything in return. We had a great example of ways to do just that through the Step Up Vermilion County leadership group.

This program runs through the end of May and focuses on three areas:

1. Step Up and Round Up — Many local businesses are struggling to stay open and we love what their business brings to our community. Visit a local business and round up when you pay to show your support. This might be a dollar or two, or $200. Give what you can to show that you care.

2. Support Local Food and Hygiene Pantries — The cost of food is rising, and food pantries are serving hundreds of families each month, many more than normal. If you are able, pick up some extra food or hygiene products at the grocery store and take them to a local pantry in your area to help fill the gap.

3. Offer Mental Health Support — Many people are isolated and discouraged. Depression, anxiety, domestic violence, and suicide rates are on the rise. Do something to show that you care. Some examples include putting hearts in your windows, posting You Matter signs in your yard, schedule a Zoom call with someone you love, send cards to local nursing homes, etc. Do something to cheer up someone else.

We need you to tell your story about what you did. Most of the time you would keep these acts of kindness to yourself, wanting no praise for doing them, but at this time we need pictures of your good deeds. We need you to encourage others to do the same things, a Pay it Forward push.

Take a picture of your way of supporting the community, then post it to your Facebook page, tag Step Up by using @StepUpVermilion in your post and use the hashtag #stepupchallenge. Be the inspiration your neighbors, co-workers, and community need by telling your story.

Give. Advocate. Volunteer. Live United.

Sherri M. Askren is president of United Way of Danville Area, Inc., 28 W. North St., Danville, IL 61832. Phone, 442-3512

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