Here’s How to Help People Affected by the Government Shutdown

I can still remember my first government shutdown. I was in middle school and my dad was furloughed. In an effort to save my family money, I brought home my brown paper bag from lunch every day to reuse.

I remember the ones from the Obama administration. And then the one that made me most upset – back in 2018. Over a structure.

The only government shutdown that truly affected me was that one in middle school. I was a kid, and I could tell my parents were stressed out. Which is why I did the only thing within my power at the time: reuse my brown paper bag.

I honestly don’t care what side you’re on: debates over a structure — or flat out refusal to work with others, like we’re seeing now — shouldn’t stop people from going to work and getting paid. It’s happening too often, when it was a rare occurrence (if it ever occurred) before I was born.

Helping People Affected by the Government Shutdown

Having lived in an area saturated in government workers and now living in an area with a good mix of government employees and military families, I’ve seen a lot on Facebook from folks wanting to help when these shutdowns occur, but aren’t totally sure how.

I’ve taken what I’ve seen suggested over and over in various Facebook Groups, along with a few of my own ideas, and compiled a list. Whether you personally know someone who has been affected or not, there is a way you can help out those in your community affected by the government shutdown now.

Send them a gift card

This can be a gift card to a grocery store or a favorite restaurant. Also consider gas cards, as those who are still working but aren’t being paid are dipping into their savings to pay for gas to commute.

Make them a meal

It doesn’t have to be anything complicated. A lasagna or casserole will do. Invite them over for dinner or take one over to their house. These make-ahead meals would be perfect if you’re looking for ideas on something to deliver a friend or neighbor.

Send them a meal

Order them a pizza or even sign them up for a meal subscription box.

Offer to babysit

A furloughed parent brought up an excellent point: as much as she loves her kids, she needs a break from being around them all day. As a SAHM I can relate. Offering to watch their kid(s) for an hour or two can give them a chance to do something for themselves or simply get a few necessary tasks done.

Host a play date

Provide lunch or some snacks.

Donate to Local Diaper Banks

If you’re a parent, you probably know how expensive diapers are (about $70-$80 per month per baby). A staggering 1 in 3 families cannot afford to put clean diapers on their baby. To find a diaper bank near you, visit the National Diaper Bank Network.

Donate to Local Food Banks

To find a local food bank near you, visit Feeding America.

Don’t forget about those with food restrictions! While you’re reaching for the peanut butter consider buying a jar of Sunbutter to donate as well. Food allergy families tend to spend more on groceries as the substitutes available cost more.

Hands holding food to put in cardboard box marked donations

Reach out to your local schools

Our boys attend a Title 1 school. Part of this means that most of the students receive a free or reduced lunch. The school actually has an ongoing food drive to help make sure students are fed after school and weekends. You might not know this unless your child attends the school (I didn’t!), so it doesn’t hurt to find out if your local school(s) have something similar in place.

Frequent restaurants offering discounts or free services to those affected by the shutdown.

They’re losing money by doing these things. Help make it worth their while by popping in and buying a meal of your own.

The same goes for any business offering discounts or free services to furloughed government workers.

Share the love on social media

Know of a business offering free lunch? A church offering a hot meal? A discount on tickets to a play place? Did you find a list of local resources to help people affected by the shutdown? SHARE IT!

Sharing encourages others to share. When more people share, those who are silently struggling know where they can go for assistance without asking around.

Support the side hustles

There are some government workers who have a side hustle. My dad was one. And if they don’t, their spouse might. Many of my friends do. Support them! Buy something. If you are unable to, then share their websites and posts so they are seen by wider audiences.

Contact your local Coast Guard base and find out what items you can bring into the food pantries they have opened up.

Call your representatives

This is the #1 response I’ve read from people who are directly affected by the shutdown. When they’re asked “how can I help?” they haven’t responded with “I need gas money” or “I need money to pay my heating bill.” They have been telling us to use our voices to end the shutdown and get the government back open by calling our representatives in Washington.

How are you helping your community during the government shutdown?

How to Help Those Affected by the Government Shutdown via

Pajama Program: Drop Off

I chose to ask our friends and family bring pajamas and a book to donate to the Pajama Program in lieu of presents for L’s first birthday party. We collected 37 pairs of pajamas and 24 books!

Helping local children with The Pajama Project | In Lieu of Gifts: The Pajama Project via
We participated in The Pajama Project in honor of our son's 1st birthday. Guests were asked to bring pajamas and a book in lieu of gifts | In Lieu of Gifts: The Pajama Project via

With the Pajama Program, you collect your pajamas and books then enter the donations into their website. I thought this was going to be a tedious task involving sorting through the pajamas and taking note of how many boys vs girls pajamas there were and what sizes we had. Thankfully, I just had to count the number of pajamas and the number of books and type in the amount we received for each. Super easy!

Giving to kids in need with the PaJama Project via

Once you let them know what you have to donate, your state’s representative emails you within a week to let you know where to drop off your donation. I believe your drop off location depends on what size pajamas you chose to collect (they have different size ranges and since L was turning one I decided to collect infant-5T) and how many items you’re donating. My representative wrote back a couple days later with the contact information for Hope House, which is a local shelter for homeless women and their children.

Giving to kids in need with the PaJama Project via

G kept asking what the books and clothes were for, so I got the chance to explain they were for boys and girls who don’t have nice, new pajamas to wear or books to read like he does. I don’t think he really understood, but this has definitely given us a window of opportunity to discuss the subject of giving to those less fortunate than he is. A conversation I’m willing to have since he’s in a phase where All The Things Are All His All The Time.

I get warm fuzzies knowing there are kids nearby getting brand new pajamas to snuggle in and brand new books to read. Now that I’ve tried it and have seen how easy it is to donate to, the Pajama Project is definitely a charity I will be giving to again — hopefully next year for L’s second birthday!


4 Kid-Friendly Charities Your Guests Can Donate To

I’ve never really been one to donate money to charities. I’ve given canned goods to numerous food drives and a lot of clothes get donated to Goodwill and AM Vets. Stuff. I donate stuff. Stuff I don’t have a use for. In fact, I’ve started keeping a storage box in the other room just so I can throw toys, clothes, other unneeded items into so that when I get notice AM Vets is going to be driving through the neighborhood I’m ready.

At some point, I’d like to donate time. When my kids are older I’d love to volunteer us all to help at a soup kitchen or something like that. I really, really want to volunteer at the hospital as a NICU baby cuddler. But time isn’t really something I feel like I have a lot of right now.

I’ve really enjoyed G’s birthday tradition of collecting baby item donations for the NICU he stayed in when he was born. Now that L’s first birthday is in less than a month (OMGoodness!), I’ve been trying to decide if I want to do the same thing on his birthday or find another cause to support.

4 Kid-Friendly Charities your guests can donate to in lieu of gifts via

I was going through our newspaper the other day, trying to locate the coupons (there weren’t any), when I came across the Parade magazine. My first reaction to this magazine is always one line of Family Guy’s Stewie: “You got these from Parade Magazine? You read Parade Magazine!” But when I get past that giggle, I sometimes read an article or two.

4 Kid friendly charities Parade Magazine Charities via

This particular issue focused on charities, and I found four kid-friendly charities I could see ourselves getting involved with:

Project Night Night
I’ve actually donated to this one before. You can donate money, blankets, books, and/or a small toy. Blankets, books, and toys are stuffed into special Project Night Night tote bags and given to children in homeless shelters.

Pajama Program
Donate money to buy a child a pair of pajamas and a book, or you can even host a fundraiser or party where people can donate these items themselves.

Project Linus
I still sleep with a blanket. When space allows, I take it on vacation with me. Yes, I’m in my 30s but having an extra blanket still gives me a sense of security. And who doesn’t like feeling cozy and safe, especially at night? Project Linus accepts monetary donations, materials to make blankets, or make your own to donate to seriously ill or traumatized children.

The Elephant Sanctuary
When I saw this, I wanted to donate right away. I also wanted to visit. Tennessee isn’t too far away… Unfortunately, this is exactly what it states: a sanctuary. Donors of a certain level can be invited for a tour but it’s off-limits to the public. I’m still in awe that there is a sanctuary for elephants in the United States. I’m glad that the ones living here have space to roam like they do in the wild.

After a lot of thought, I decided I wanted to do something different for L’s birthday. I read a little more into each of these charities to find out specific requirements and how to deliver the items we’d receive and decided that the Pajama Program was our best fit at the moment. In her (prompt!) response, our chapter’s president told me there were a few places in my city that I could deliver the donations to. So, yay for not having to commute to NOVA!

Do you donate to any charities? Which ones?