Katherine Mote

Students have found new ways to help local nonprofits and global organizations while social distancing by increasing involvement through online or virtual events and starting their own fundraisers within the community.

Community Service Director Courtney Phelps said that students have done a lot for the community and that they are still continuing to serve. 

“It hasn’t been a big shift as far as what our students are willing to do because of the stay at home order,” Phelps said. “It just limits their interaction a bit. The willingness to still go out and help people is still there.”

Junior Laura Gillies, an avid rower, started a fundraiser on April 11 to benefit the North Texas Food Bank called Row Away Corona. She has been a member of the crew team for three years and gained inspiration from the local need for accessible food and the rising unemployment rates, leaving many North Texans facing financial struggles.

“I’m a part of the North Texas Food Bank Young Advocates Council, so I already do a lot with them,” Gillies said. “I love rowing, [so] I decided to create a fundraiser to raise money for the food bank while also social distancing and staying active.” 

The crew team and their parents participated in a 12-hour rowing challenge where each participant worked out for 30-minute increments by either running, biking, or rowing before the next member would pick up at the time they left off.

“I came up with the 12-hour [rowing challenge] so we could encourage each other and also get exercise,” Gillies said. “I have seen a lot of other people create their own fundraisers, or at least try to, and I wanted to help because it’s really important right now.”

“It’s really no surprise that our community was ready to jump right in and serve even though it wasn’t in the way they anticipated.”

Courtney Phelps, Community Service DirectoR

The participants raised money by asking friends and family to sponsor them and totaled $1,900, which equates to over 5,700 meals provided by the North Texas Food Bank. With food becoming difficult to obtain because of financial issues, this donation helps thousands of locals in need of food.

“Although we have not been physically able to serve the community since spring break, a lot of the students have taken the opportunity to get creative and find ways to support organizations they’ve always supported or found new organizations to help,” Phelps said. “[We have] tried our best to use ourselves and what we can physically do from still being safe in our homes to be able to still support the community.”

Fundraising campaigns are popular because students can promote them remotely. Junior Lily Yandell joined in by starting a fundraiser called Lily’s COVID Relief. To raise money, she makes photo edits, poems, and drawings for others. She has received support from her classmates and friends through social media and word of mouth.

“[The written pieces are] simple things that people would want to buy, so I made an Instagram account to market these things and so people can see what their options are,” Yandell said. “It’s a small way that I can do my part, and since most of my followers have been from the ESD community, it’s made it a good way to donate in a fun setting.” 

She personally curates poems and written work in exchange for proof of a donation to the World Health Organization. She chose to donate to the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund because of their greater worldwide impact, emphasis on a cure and their assistance in third world countries.

The community and students have been able to uphold the founding tenet of community service even through this difficult time. 

“The students, staff, and faculty are always ready to help in times of crisis,” Phelps said. “It’s really no surprise that our community was ready to jump right in and serve even though it wasn’t in the way they anticipated.”

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