Modeled after similar volunteer-match programs in Louisville and Elizabethtown, an online COVID-19 Community Action Center for Bowling Green and Warren County has launched to help find and arrange matches between elderly or high-risk residents and low-risk volunteers who can help.
To request a volunteer match or to sign up as a volunteer, visit the website linked from the City’s Coronavirus Response Page at bgky.org/coronavirus or access it directly at warrencountyky.gov/covid19.php.
Using geographic information systems, the website is a collaboration between the Western Kentucky University Geography and Geology Department, the city of Bowling Green, Warren County government and the Warren County Sheriff’s Office. Residents of Warren County may request a volunteer or sign up to be a volunteer for a neighbor who is self-isolating during social distancing. Businesses and organizations may also use the site to offer resources or recruit volunteers for COVID-19 relief work they are doing.
“The goal of the website is about connecting neighbors with neighbors, and people are really looking for ways they can help right now,” said Karen Foley, the neighborhood services coordinator for the city of Bowling Green. “Especially for those who are naturally doers, it’s difficult to stay home and watch from the sidelines. This is a simple way, if you are healthy and low risk, you can incorporate a task so helpful to someone else into your routine. And for our folks who are at risk and at home, it’s another point of no or low-contact connection in a time when our normal connections are so very disrupted.”
Scott Dobler, a geographer and geography and GIS instructor at WKU, said he hopes to help people through his experience teaching GIS and his 24 years of National Guard experience.
Dobler said the idea of the program was first brought to his attention by one of his students, who heard that Louisville was doing the same type of program.
“What GIS does is it helps people make decisions using proper data. It is data-driven decision making,” Dobler said. “We’ve been running for three days and we have had over 50 volunteers and we have started contacting those volunteers and we have not made placements yet until everything is in order. It starts slow and then builds.”
Dobler said the software used for GIS includes Survey 123 and ArcGIS Online.
The Warren County Sheriff’s Office will review driver’s licenses of all potential volunteers and volunteers will receive a short training to make sure they are healthy and practicing social distancing for very low contact or no contact deliveries.
“This runs real time, so as soon as someone applies the deputy can run a small background check and we can contact these people to start planning who needs help and who can help,” Dobler said. “It is all basically dealing with geographic location.”
This project has been developed in consultation with United Way 2-1-1, BRADD Aging Services, Warren County Emergency Management and other partners, according to Foley. Bowling Green Coalition of Active Neighborhoods and Age Friendly BG volunteers are also contributing to the project.