Community Service Reimagined in the Age of a Pandemic

Abigail Coachi ’22
Zenya Yanoff ’22
Kathryn Bjorklund ’21

By Christian Rice ’98
Assistant Dean for Civic Engagement and Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Humanities

Coachie Yanoff

Physical-distancing restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic put a long-term hold on many opportunities for in-person volunteering. But with some innovation and outside-of-the-box thinking, UCARE provided students with a host of opportunities to work with 15 community partners.

Thanks to Zoom, Ursinus students served as virtual conversation partners with residents at Frederick Living or Parkhouse Nursing and Rehabilitation Center; virtual mentors with the Perkiomen Valley Middle School Mentoring Program; and virtual coaches with Girls on the Run. UCARE wasn’t alone in seeking ways to give back when COVID-19 meant we couldn’t always be together in person. A trio of pre-med sorority sisters also launched Virtue (Virtual Ursinus Service), a new community service club.

Neuroscience major Abigail Coachi ’22; biochemistry and molecular biology major Zenya Yanoff ’22; and neuroscience and psychology double major Kathryn Bjorklund ’21—all members of Phi Alpha Psi—wanted to provide students with additional avenues for service. Club members were able to grab supplies from bins on campus to make cards for healthcare workers and veterans. They also ran virtual camps with Kids Need More, a nonprofit that seeks to enhance the lives of young people with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.

It was so exciting to see Abigail, Zenya, and Kathryn take the initiative and start Virtue this past year. It was a year in which all of us were experiencing many emotions related to COVID-19. Our essential workers especially needed a little extra encouragement, and Virtue reached out to them with cards of support. Virtue’s projects were also great for our students, providing an opportunity for them to get involved with service when it was all too easy to feel isolated. Their work was a source of great positivity on our campus.

“Many new ideas are born out of the constraints that crises present, when there are no alternatives left but to change.”

-Maureen Cumpstone ’79, Entrepreneur-in-residence