News

Trio of Pre-Med Sorority Sisters Launches Community Service Club

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on in-person opportunities for community service, three Ursinus students created Virtue (Virtual Ursinus Service), a new club that allows students to give back.

The student-run club was the brainchild of neuroscience major Abigail Coachi ’22. While opportunities for community service abound through UCARE (Ursinus Center for Advocacy, Responsibility and Engagement), Coachi wanted to create ways for students to serve the community with less long-term commitment and more spontaneity.

“COVID-19 restrictions and limitations made community service hard to do because previous offerings required face-to-face interactions, such as going to the farm, a hospice center, or a nursing home,” said Coachi, who is also a volunteer for Wismer on Wheels. Her initial idea was a simple one: provide students with supplies to make cards for healthcare workers and veterans. “A quick little card can make someone’s day, and it’s very easy to make on your own time and at your own house,” said Coachi.

She enlisted the help of Kathryn Bjorklund ’21, a neuroscience and psychology double major, and Zenya Yanoff ’22, a biochemistry and molecular biology major. All three are members of Phi Alpha Psi.

Bins on campus in Myrin and Wismer serve as the pick-up spot for card-making supplies and the drop-off location for completed cards. E-cards are also welcome.

The goal was to make community service more accessible to students in the sense that they could pick and choose which activities to complete and which events to attend, said Bjorklund. “We bring community service to the students.”

One organization the group serves routinely is Kids Need More. “It’s a nonprofit that seeks to enhance the lives of kids with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, as well as their siblings,” said Bjorklund, who has volunteered with the group for nearly 10 years. “Due to COVID, they started a virtual camp platform,” which allows for interactive events and games that Ursinus students plan for the children. Recently, Professor of Chemistry Mark Ellison conducted science experiments, and Coachi and Yanoff demonstrated how to make elephant toothpaste, a foamy substance that erupts like a volcano.

Hosting events on Zoom and inviting students to create e-cards means that opportunities to contribute also extend to those not on campus this semester. “Some students are remote and not able to do this community service that could be miles away,” said Yanoff. “Virtue is really valuable because students are able to access community service regardless of their circumstances.”

Virtue’s leaders say the response has been overwhelming. The club, which already boasts 80 members in its GroupMe chat, has provided service opportunities to individuals as well as groups. Coachi has heard from first-year students that Virtue events serve as a welcome way to meet people. Some first-year halls have even made cards together.

Virtue’s activities now qualify as five-star events. “That really serves the Greek life community,” said Yanoff, who is also a resident adviser and member of the track team. “Members of Phi Kappa Sigma have gathered to make cards together, and the tennis and field hockey teams have also made cards together. That way they get to bond while doing something good for the community, which I think is really awesome at a time like this.”

On April 12, Virtue is collaborating with ALMA and Latinx on a movie night during which students can create cards for healthcare workers in South Philly’s Latino community. There are also plans for a donation drive of toiletries and non-perishable food items to benefit Manna on Main Street in May.

“What’s also really nice about Virtue is that members also have ideas we can implement,” said Bjorklund. “When Abby was forming Virtue, she was very adamant that everyone’s voice should be heard. We want everyone to do community service in a way that they feel is fulfilling to them.”

“If it wasn’t for the help and hard work of Zenya and Kathryn, this vision of mine wouldn’t have come true,” said Coachi. “Thanks to all of the hard work and dedication we all produced, Virtue has uplifted and serviced many people, and we hope to keep doing this.”

The club relies on donated supplies. If you would like to contribute items such as paper, markers, stickers, etc., place your items in the bins located in Myrin and Wismer. Follow @ursinus_v.irtu.e on Instagram to learn more about the club’s events and activities.