O∆K’s National Day of Service was held on Thursday, April 9, 2020. Many individuals and circles participated in service on their campuses and their communities throughout the year. With the COVID-19 crisis, many shifted their typical service activities to better serve those in need while practicing safe physical distancing.
Natasha Hongsermeier, Morningside College
Natasha Hongsermeier (Morningside College initiate) started a volunteer organization called Musicians for Healing as an undergraduate student. Now in medical school, Natasha is bringing the organization to life in Omaha, Nebraska. She is joined by other medical students with a musical background, playing at local nursing homes, assisted living, memory care, and other long-term care facilities outdoors during the pandemic. Many of the residents have not been able to have entertainment or visitors for months, and this brightens their day. Natasha and the other musicians stay physically distanced from each other and from the residents, who open their windows to hear our music. They rotate around the outside perimeter of the building so that all residents eventually get to listen to the “concert.” Photo credit to Aksarben Village Senior Living.
Kelley L. Lasiewicz, Hamline University
The Minnesota Mask Mayday group is made up of volunteers from all over Minnesota, who prepped, sewed, and donated homemade masks to local hospitals, care centers, senior living facilities, and military members who were called to duty. Kelley L. Lasiewicz (Hamline University) was able to contribute about 90 masks to the cause. She shared, “I am not a healthcare worker, but I can sew, so this is one way I felt I was able to contribute.”
Kelley also leads a Girl Scout troop, which donated 157 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies to the local police department, fire station, post office, and a neighboring city’s hospital.
A servant leader at heart, Kelley noted, “during this time, it is wonderful to be able to give encouragement to those essential workers being exposed every day.”
The Adelphi University Circle is focusing on the creative arts phase for their service project. They are making outlined drawings to build a collaborative coloring book. In addition to creating the coloring book, members will produce many photocopies of the coloring book to donate it, as well as crayons, to a children’s ward in a local hospital in the community. One member said, “at this time, creating drawings will help us to relax as O∆K members, and we will gain peace of mind in knowing that we are helping to make a child’s life a little brighter and more positive.”
Theresa Bowers, Georgian Court University
Theresa Bowers (Georgian Court University) is a middle school teacher who has spent the past month continually providing education virtually via Zoom and Google Classroom. Recently, teachers were given a day off, and the 7th & 8th graders became the Zoom host/teacher of various Fun Day Zoom Rooms for Pre-K through 6th Grade. Theresa facilitated a group of 7th and 8th graders in the Zoom Room. Students created gratitude notecards for healthcare workers and others, and get well soon cards to a staff member who was released from the hospital and is recovering from COVID19.
University of Central Florida
The University of Central Florida Circle took out a shelter dog for the day. Members of the circle took Kai to Lake Eola, a lake in the Orlando area. Most of the shelter dogs do not get to go out on walks often, and Kai thoroughly enjoyed his time outside. It was also an excellent opportunity to get people who would potentially be interested in adopting see Kai.
The Campbell University Circle hosted an annual “O∆K Thanks Project” on February 13, 2020, at a home basketball game. Members organized materials and announcements encouraging game attendees to sign cards of thanks, designed by a circle alumna. The event was a great success, and the circle collected more than 100 cards to spread cheer to Campbell faculty and staff. Even the mascots, Gladys and Gaylord, got in on the effort!
The Clemson University Circle raised funds through philanthropic efforts to support the Adopt-a-Classroom project for providing holiday gifts to the needy in multiple classrooms in schools around the state of South Carolina.
The Citadel Circle did two Folly Beach, South Carolina, clean-ups in a commitment of community service. One was held on November 2, 2019, and the other was held on February 22, 2020. The cadets were asked to use My Coast App, which tracks various forms of trash that end up on beaches.
Monique Finley, Centenary College of Louisiana
Monique Finley (Centenary College of Louisiana) is building ZEEMZ: The Versipisces Secret, a disaster preparedness, augmented reality game that utilizes blockchain technology to reward players with digital assets. Due to the coronavirus, Monique put together a team of volunteers to build ZEEMZ: Pandemic Patch, an educational, augmented reality game that doubles as a diagnostic tool to prevent hospital congestion. She is working with a group of doctors, at askco19.com, who are inserting COVID-19 data in real-time.
University of Georgia
With the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, the University of Georgia Circle sought ways to honor the National Day of Service virtually. Collegiate members celebrated by recognizing members’ favorite volunteer organizations, specifically those organizations whose work is conducted remotely. One of the featured organizations was Paper Airplanes, a virtual tutoring program for Syrian refugees. Through the recognition of these organizations, circle leaders hope that members of the circle will find new ways to volunteer during this time.
Rachel Gunawardena, Carthage College
Meet Rachel Gunawardena, Carthage College initiate. She and her husband and cleared out their food pantry and donated several bags of dried pasta, marinara sauces, a box of gloves, a container of disinfectant wipes, and several other cans of food to a local food pantry. They plan to support the food pantry philanthropically too.
National Headquarters Staff
In keeping with national recommendations for physical distancing, the O∆K national headquarters staff adjusted our previously scheduled service project to build a Habitat Home. This year, staff members all committed to supporting local, small businesses in Lexington, Va. Some purchased gift cards at boutique stores; a few staff members picked up carry-out for dinner at favorite restaurants; one paid for future haircuts to give to her hairstylist now.
Kevin Singh, Adelphi University
Adelphi University initiate, Kevin Singh, is currently the transplant hepatology fellow at New York University Langone Medical Center. Aside from optimizing patients for liver transplantation, he manages patients who have undergone liver transplants. At this time, in an epicenter for the Coronavirus pandemic, many of the staff members in the hospital where he serves are unavailable due to illness. As a fellow, Kevin has been mobilized to cover patients outside of his specialty including managing Coronavirus patients.
The Union College Circle chose to do a virtual fundraiser for the Ali Forney Center, a nonprofit organization based in Harlem, New York, which serves homeless LGBTQ+ youth. Despite many businesses and organizations being able to close their doors in the current crisis, AFC cannot; their doors are the only safe space for countless youth. Thus, the circle’s support is more critical now than ever before. They created a GoFundMe (https://www.gofundme.com/f/union-helps-homeless-lgbtq-youth) and are hoping to raise about $1000-or more.
Western Colorado University
The Western Colorado University Circle chose different activities to partake in from their homes, during physical distancing. Members downloaded the HowWeFeel app to donate meals through Feeding America and encouraged others to do the same. Other members made mask covers to make nurses’ N95 masks last longer. Additionally, one took an online suicide prevention course; another cleaned the house for their families/roommates. Further service included filling more than 100 online orders at the local grocery store, cleaning up trash, making a ‘thank you’ banner for CareFlight paramedics, walking neighbor’s dogs, and writing cards to a nursing home and hospital staff around the country.
Zachary Zimmerman, Sewanee – The University of the South
Meet Zachary Zimmerman (Sewanee – The University of the South initiate). Zachary shared: “I have chosen to work for Publix as a cashier, my local grocery store, during these troubling times. I’m not at the hospital, but I am on the frontlines in a manner of speaking. My community needs food, and I want to do my part in some way. I also advise for the boys’ chapter of B’nai B’rith Youth Organization here in Naples, FL.”