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    • Chinese Teacher Lan Lin helps to deliver masks to the New Haven community. Photo credit: Hopkins Instagram.

Students and Adults Volunteer Amidst Crisis

Vivian Wang ’23 Assistant Features Editor and Sophie Sonnenfeld ’21 Lead Features Editor
After reading through articles and posts online about the coronavirus pandemic, Sara Kenyon ‘23 got to work.
Each day during her lunch break, and again as soon as her Zoom classes end, Kenyon gathers her thread, bedsheets, safety pins and hair elastics, pipe cleaners and vacuum bags, and she starts to sew. In the midst of difficult times and drastic changes, Kenyon and several other Hopkins Heroes have found ways to assist those in need.

With her immediate and extended family members, some of her mother’s colleagues, and a few others at Hopkins who have reached out, Kenyon has helped make and distribute over 300 masks to nurses in New York and to a clinic in Rhode Island. She is now awaiting approval from Columbus House in New Haven to sanitize and distribute masks for some of the homeless population as well. 

“It was hard at first to make myself sit down everyday, but now it's become a habit and I think anyone could do this and even enjoy it,” Kenyon said. She believes that making masks is one of the most easy and effective ways to help, and in an email to the student body she wrote, “There are of course many other ways to help available to you, so my main hope is that, if you've been wondering if you can do something to help, the answer is yes and the time is now.” 

As Connecticut residents are struggling to obtain essentials in the Coronavirus pandemic, a number of Hopkins students, faculty, and families have shifted “from the “idea” phase to the “action” phase,” as described by Hopkins Director of Community Service Alissa Davis.

Hopkins’ community service umbrella activity, Maroon Key, that Davis oversees, is currently meeting virtually to plan coronavirus recovery volunteering and donation efforts. Davis described how, although many community service programs will have to be altered due to social distancing regulations, Maroon Key has still been able to financially support Columbus House through the pandemic with funds from the Community Service Department. Davis added that Maroon Key’s annual clothing drive in October and the December toy drive will most likely continue as usual with some “minor adjustments.” 

“I think we really need to listen to our service partners and hear what their needs are. In many cases it might be monetary contributions as their ability to take in volunteers safely has been compromised” Davis said. 

Each spring, Davis helps to organize Senior Service Week where the senior class dedicates roughly 3,000 hours to causes in the New Haven area such as Leadership Education and Athletics in Partnership (LEAP), New Haven Housing Services, Habitat for Humanity, and the Connecticut Food Bank. Davis is constructing potential alternatives for the seniors to volunteer. “We are working to see if we might be able to do some kind of opt-in experience for the Seniors who can come up with innovative, and safe, ways to help out these organizations that are dedicated to helping others.” 

Although Senior Service Week is still being redesigned, every Wednesday across the New Haven area, senior David Judd ’20 delivers food pantry items to those in need and to those who can’t leave their homes in quarantine. Judd has been working at the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen (DESK) for several years with his mother, who is on the DESK Board of Directors, and his father, who volunteers driving to deliver food as well. “I would probably be doing the normal work if there wasn’t a quarantine, so I just adjusted to the changes,” Judd said. 

For the past four weeks he has been delivering, Judd has made about twenty food deliveries total. The deliveries are organized through a joint effort of DESK and the Coordinated Food Assistance Network who now have roughly 100 driver volunteers. 

Judd added that the soup kitchen will need more drivers soon and encouraged other students to volunteer as well. “I think other students should do similar things now that this is really one of the only ways to serve the community right now.”

Mathias Dias ’22 discovered that people in his local immigrant community of Bridgeport are struggling to afford food and other necessities due to the devastating impact of the virus on the economy.

Dias and his family were able to raise 1,000 dollars initially- but they knew more funds were needed to help everyone in their community. Dias launched his GoFundMe in April this year with a goal of 5000 dollars. At this printing, Dias has reached 2/5 of his goal and helped around 100 families.

With the money from his fundraiser, Dias buys non-perishable foods such as pasta, rice, beans, and vegetable oil, to package and deliver to the numerous Brazilian, Haitian, and Mexican families residing in Bridgeport. Every other week, Dias, along with his mother and other family friends, buy and distribute food at the Saint Charles Borromeo Church.

In addition to reaching out to organizations and donating, Dias recommends that everyone should continue to “practice self isolation and only meet up with others if it is urgent or necessary,” in order to protect those at risk.

Similarly to Kenyon, Carly Slager ’21 decided to make use of her sewing skills after being inspired by an online post. After reading about a nurse whose hospital had completely run out of masks, Slager immediately began making masks using the materials she had available.

She made her first batch of masks using leftover fabric and sewing supplies from the Hopkins production of Spamalot she worked on earlier this year, but quickly ran out of extra material. “I started using everything I could get my hands on— quilting fabric, flannel sheets, etc,” Slager explained. 

When first starting out, Slager worked many hours each day due to the high demand and requests for masks. She has already made and distributed about a hundred masks to people in her community, healthcare workers, and those with weaker immune systems.

Slager’s efforts were praised with positive responses from her community and she encouraged other students to help out. On a Hopkins Instagram post, Slager added, "People have been really sweet...some people have left flowers or jars of homemade honey when they pick up their masks.” She continued, “I believe every Hopkins student has the power to be a force of good in this world. I’d encourage everybody to reach out to their community and see if there are needs they can fill.”

When the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in Wuhan, Modern Language Department Chair Lan Lin sprang into action. After witnessing the rapid spread of the virus within her hometown, Lin “could not watch the heartbreaking reality of PPE [personal protective equipment] shortage without doing something.”

In efforts to gather as much PPE as possible, Lin reached out to her friends and colleagues living in China. Soon enough, a number of packages containing PPE started showing up at her door. She also contacted the Chinese American families at Hopkins, who have located and made donations to Connecticut hospitals in need of PPE. In an interview with Jemma Williams, Lin described that with the help of her friends and the Hopkins families, she was able to gather 6,890 N95/KN95 masks, over 10,000 surgical masks, 530 protective gowns, 218 protective goggles, and 127 face shields.

Lin and other faculty members at Hopkins also created a GoFundMesuccessfully raising over 20,000 dollars. The money has been used to purchase approved equipment from China to donate to local hospitals in Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

Hoping to inspire other Hopkins students and faculty to help, Lin quoted Mother Theresa saying, "Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Lin believes that even the smallest things can make a large difference.
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