Volunteering in a pandemic

With over 25,000 hours of community service committed annually, Allegheny College students spend a lot of time aiding in the Meadville community. Although the pandemic has affected where and how students are able to volunteer, opportunities are still available to them.

Aside from regular volunteer opportunities, organizations such as the Bonners Leadership Program creates opportunities for student volunteering.

“I heard about the Bonner’s Program through an email,” said Bonner student Juliana James, ’24. “I guess I was selected to receive the email to apply. I applied for it because I thought that it was a good opportunity.”

Because of Allegheny’s Civic Engagement department, students can reach out to ask to volunteer, yet students are less likely to participate since it is more work than just finding an event and showing up.

“That’s really good that opportunities, [such as Bonner programs, are] publicized to the whole campus, but I think the other volunteering experiences should also be shared,” James said. “Then the whole campus could interact instead of a select group of students.”

Yet, even if volunteering should be broadcasted to the entire student body, it is still nice to become a member of those clubs so people can volunteer in activities that they feel passionate about. Allegheny Service organizations involve everything from food, to youth groups, to housing. Every year, new volunteer clubs are created that have not been put on the website yet so checking it or My Allegheny often is necessary.

Then there is also non-traditional volunteering like working at the Grounds for Change coffee place at the Campus Center or organizing fun events at the Gator Activities Program. Likewise, a new group called Allegheny Donuts spends hours a day walking around campus to give students free donuts. Students can volunteer for it as little or much as they want. Energy spent contributing to something amazing is just as good as traditional volunteering. Likewise, people could also reach out to various organizations and unofficially help out. For instance, Allegheny Student Government allows the public to attend meetings so they are able to know what is happening at the administrational level. Citizen participation in government is volunteering in its own form.

This shows that if students feel like they want to help, but do not have the time to be a member, more than likely there will be a way to compromise.

mise. Volunteering makes a positive impact on the world which means creating thank you cards for Allegheny employees would count due to the time and care put into the activity. Even spending time picking up trash from Allegheny’s overflowing trash cans would be helpful. Receiving credit may feel good, but people do not need to know about every time someone does a good deed. Doing little things that bring smiles to people’s faces are sometimes better than the big ideas that provide fame.

Additionally, protecting others by wearing masks and going above and beyond in safety procedures are more little ways that make a huge difference. A Grounds for Change volunteer, Becca Winton, ’23, described how they are keeping campus safe by working in pods.

“We just opened up into the green phase [which is why] you [have been able to] sit these past few weeks,” Winton said. “We work together for every shift, but then we also have a teammate, who is a close contact for us, that works the shift before us. If one of us can’t make it, we’re supposed to look to our podmates to fill in so that we aren’t cross-contaminating people. It’s less contact-tracing.”

When volunteering, people should social distance from their pod, but they should mostly focus on keeping distance from other volunteer groups. Moreover, they should also keep in mind that involving a lot of people may not actually be beneficial due to crowds.

This also means to be aware that leaving campus to volunteer could put others at-risk. However, these organizations allow people to choose their comfort level by giving donating options as well as in-person ones. Nevertheless, staying outdoors whenever possible and washing one’s hands is still important. What is equally relevant is checking on personal health a couple days after volunteering. If people feel sick, they should make sure to report it to the school as soon as possible.

To minimize risks even further, wearing gloves when handing items to others and in general. This may not need to be said, but wearing masks off campus is a must. Research shows that putting two masks on will protect people even more. Volunteering is about making the community better rather than worse. After all, safety comes first.

When volunteering in a pandemic, it is important to remember that everyone’s priority should be to keep themselves and others safe. Knowing that, if people choose to volunteer, then following pandemic safety guidelines is key to success.