When the COVID-19 pandemic took over and students could no longer help in clinical settings, a group of students teamed up to create the Northeast Ohio Medical University COVID-19 Relief Initiative.
The group, coordinated by Poojajeet Khaira, a rising third-year College of Medicine student, put together a list of local volunteer opportunities available throughout summer for their peers to sign up for — from Family & Community Services, Inc. to the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.
Rising second-year NEOMED College of Medicine students Justin Jickess, Rachel Krevh, Isabelle Mawby and Adrianna Nicholson recently volunteered at the Amelia DiGirolamo Center of Hope, located in Ravenna, Ohio.
The Center, operated by Family & Community Services, Inc., provides hot meals and food assistance to disadvantaged residents of Portage County.
Krevh, Mawby and Nicholson reflect on their time at Center of Hope.
“I was inspired to volunteer there this summer because I haven’t really been on the ‘front lines’ of fighting the pandemic, so I thought I would do what I could to directly impact those who are most affected by the pandemic (those who lost their jobs, etc.) As a future physician, I have a duty to provide care and compassion in whatever way possible throughout school and my career.
“While volunteering, we took packaged foods, and separated them into individual baggies to be handed out to those who wanted them. We checked expiration dates to make sure those who were served would get the freshest products. We also organized the ‘run room,’ which is a place for the workers to quickly grab products to hand to those at curbside pickup.
“After volunteering, I realized the impact that we had in a short amount of time. During COVID-19, I feel as if volunteering has 10x the impact than usual, since there isn’t as much time for workers to get all the tasks done that they can. In addition, I realized that food pantries such as this one is serving those from all different socioeconomic backgrounds during this time. This includes those who are homeless, those who make minimum wage, those who just lost their jobs, and more.
“The head of the food pantry is a great teacher. She taught us about the impact of the food pantry, and she even had social justice conversations with us during volunteering.” — Rachel Krevh
“Volunteering is something I try to prioritize and integrate into my life. However, with the current state of the pandemic and racial injustice it is even more important to me to do all I can to help those around me. When I first arrived at Center of Hope, Lajoyce, the Program Manager of Center of Hope, noted that they normally do around 50-60 grocery deliveries to community members in need and that with the pandemic those numbers have increased to 200 grocery deliveries per day. Hearing this emphasized to me just how important it is to do volunteer work this summer.
“Lajoyce left me with a very memorable thought. As we were packing food, Lajoyce walked over to us and explained that although you cannot change the racial inequalities, the spread of disease and the hate in this world singlehandedly, you can do your part to promote change in your community. If we work to make a difference in the lives of those around us suffering from inequalities, we are helping to promote change, even if the world is still behind. If we all work hard in our communities, the world will slowly catch up.” — Isabelle Mawby
“I knew a lot of families were significantly impacted by COVID-19 and how it affected their income and therefore their daily lives. When first arriving at Center of Hope, the program manager informed us on how much COVID-19 has impacted the local community and how different it made things for everybody. They went from preparing about 50 meals a day to preparing around 200 meals a day when COVID-19 struck the community. I stayed busy during my time volunteering and it was a great experience. I was able to sort, pack, and organize various food items. I was able to unload food donations from a truck delivery. I also was able to make sure boxes were thrown away and making sure the area stayed clean. It was such an eye-opening experience, realizing that many people of all income and living situations rely on the Center of Hope for meals and food.” — Adrianna Nicholson
Pictured L to R: Rachel Krevh, Adrianna Nicholson, Justin Jickess, Isabelle Mawby and Lajoyce Harris