Community Service & COVID-19

Gillian Mazur, Sports editor

Ambassadors of Service – one of the six core values of Mercyhurst University. Throughout a traditional undergraduate student’s time at Mercyhurst, they will be guaranteed to serve the Erie community at least twice, once through the Freshman Day of Service and again during their Beyond the Gates experience.

Often these experiences give students the feeling of fulfillment from giving back to others and leave them wanting more. This is where the Office of Service Learning and Community Engagement comes in.

In light of the COVID-19 crisis and mandatory stay-at-home orders, many students who regularly volunteer their time while at school have begun to feel the need to volunteer, especially when it seems that the world desperately needs more help than ever.

While Mercyhurst is not promoting or encouraging that students participate in any actions that violate the CDC’s recommendations or their local ordinances, the school recognizes that some students may want to continue to spread the Mercy Mission.

“While we cannot promote anything that violates social distancing guidelines, we have encouraged ways to love from a distance,” said Assistant Director of Community Engagement, Bethany Woods.

“This is a unique time to put ‘Carpe Diem’ into practice. For all of us right now, part of seizing the day is about patience and keeping disciplined about our hygiene and social distancing. Another part is about tapping into that Mercy Spirit that binds us all,” Colin Hurley, Director of Community Engagement, said.

One way that students can find local organizations who need volunteers is by paying attention to the news.

“I’m encouraging Mercyhurst Students to pay attention to local, state and national news which requires a unique form of Civic Awareness,” Hurley said. “From there, as students learn of new needs, for example, people who need masks and may not have something comfortable or appropriate, they can consider if they might be able to safely donate time, talent or resources in some way remotely to meet a community need.”

Through reflection and asking oneself questions such as: “Who are the helpers? Who are the everyday heroes and frontline workers keeping us safe and healthy? Who has been hurt the most and who might be lonely?” students may be able to think of a specific group of people who they can help with acts of kindness and compassion.

Hurley said, “I gain so much encouragement through others’ actions I hear about or read online. I think health and safety folks appreciate the random act of kindness and appreciation, and I encourage others to find ways to serve in their own ways.  We can creatively appreciate others and their good work without violating social distancing practices in place.”

One student who was inspired and found a way to help make an impact is Emma Scali, a current junior Business and Competitive Intelligence Studies major.

“I always really looked forward to Women and Girls in Sports Day because it has always been really fulfilling to be a part of something bigger than your own sport. Even with my BTG experience, though there were struggles, I hope that I was able to make even a small impact on the kids I got to work with. It was eye-opening for me, and helping and supporting others has always been something that’s important to me.”

As one of the captains of the Mercyhurst Women’s soccer team for next fall, Scali wanted to find a way to involve the entire team in an act of service with the hopes to inspire the rest of her teammates to think about what is going on in the world and how everyone is connected through it.“As a leader, it is important to motivate not only yourself but those you are leading,” Scali said.

Seeing her older sister who is a nurse and putting her own life on the line inspired Scali to create a small community service task. After talking with her sister, Scali called the team to action to write words of encouragement, send thank you letters and create cheerful pictures for her sister’s hospital to hang up.

“New York has been hit pretty hard with the virus and the frontline workers are being asked to do a lot to keep everything together. And then just seeing my older sister putting her own life on the line like that, I didn’t feel right not doing something even as small as writing cards,” Scali said.

Throughout different industries, big companies are finding ways to help flatten the curve while fighting against problems of hunger.

An app supported by Pinterest called HWF and several other companies have created an easy way to track the spread of the virus and also help feed those in need.

HowWeFeel is a self-check-in nonprofit app whose data goes directly to medical institutions such as Harvard’s School of Public Health. With every new download and self-check-in, a meal is donated to a person in need through Feeding America.

Through projects such as this, a safe social distance is maintained at no cost to the individual all while helping others and the global community by tracking the virus’ spread.

What is even cooler is it gives each user general information about how those who have self-reported in the county are feeling.

For students who have the means and resources, another way to help those who are struggling is to help out small businesses by buying gift cards or donating to a charity.

The Office for Community Engagement and Service Learning has provided students with several ideas on the Mercyhurst HUB page as well as given students access to other wellness tips and tricks. Along with this, Community Engagement and Service Learning will be part of the virtual Wellness Fair on May 1st on the Campus Involvement HUB page.