As St. Thomas community members continue adjusting their lives amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the actions individuals can take to advance the common good have adjusted as well. Perhaps the most common impact has been in the practicing of social distancing and staying home as much as possible, contributing to a community, state and nationwide effort to flatten the curve of the disease’s spread.
Like many others, St. Thomas community members are working to figure out other safe and appropriate ways they can make an impact. The Center for the Common Good – which coordinates with hundreds of community partners to connect Tommies with volunteering and donation opportunities – has helped create guidelines and ways for St. Thomas community members to remain engaged.
“This is where the rubber meets the road, to exercise morally responsible leadership where we think critically, act wisely and work skillfully to advance the common good,” said Theresa Ricke-Kiely, executive director of the Center for the Common Good. “There are ways that you can help and we encourage you to do so if you are able.”
The St. Thomas community has seen many examples of its members making positive impacts, from the donations by facilities management, biology and chemistry departments of more than 2,220 N95 masks and other medical equipment to Hennepin County; to a donation of more than 500 pounds of food last week to Keystone Community Services; to the university-wide policy to pay student workers for all their regularly scheduled hours of work.
College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) sociology assistant professor Patricia Maddox and Dougherty Family College (DFC) clinical faculty Jennifer Trost have transitioned their courses in-person volunteering with Catholic Charities Family Service Center online, increasing its emphasis on food and craft donations, and creating a YouTube channel where students can record videos of book reading, how-to instructions and magic tricks for the children.
University Development and Alumni Relations has also prioritized fundraising for the Student Emergency Fund – and the Undergraduate Student Government recently voted to move funding to the same fund – combining to provide more funding for St. Thomas students financially burdened by the coronavirus pandemic.
Opportunities are continuing to develop, including the shifting of more than 200 tutor-mentor volunteers into online learning environments. There are also upcoming opportunities for St. Thomas community members to improve advocacy skills with an April 8 workshop on letter writing and an April 16 workshop on how to effectively connect with an elected official.
“There are other ways you can help,” Ricke-Kiely said. “Pick one and know that you can contribute to our mission in real ways that do make a difference.”
Explore virtual volunteer opportunities
Ricke-Kiely pointed out that individuals and families who were already vulnerable before the outbreak are likely to be disproportionately affected, further increasing the need for those who are able to provide support to do so. In a message shared with the St. Thomas community, the Center for the Common Good wrote:
The health and safety of all Tommie volunteers is our top priority. As you know, the university is strongly urging all community members to maintain social distancing practices (maintaining at least six feet between people) and avoid gathering in large groups. Given this, we strongly encourage you to explore options for virtual volunteer opportunities. We unfortunately are not able to support in-person volunteering with resources such as scheduling support or the reimbursement of transportation costs. Please note: If you choose to participate in in-person volunteer opportunities, you do so as a private citizen, not as a student of the university.
If you choose on your own to pursue in-person volunteer opportunities, we would strongly encourage you to explore nonprofits committed to CDC-mandated safeguards for their volunteers, guests and staff. Additionally, it is imperative that anyone who chooses to volunteer must take strict measures to protect themselves and others. Please refrain from in-person volunteering if:
- You are feeling ill
- You have underlying medical conditions
- You have family or roommates with underlying medical conditions
- Or even if you simply feel that you cannot engage in the broader community through volunteerism at this time
Below is a list of five Center for the Common Good-vetted partner organizations, including three recently endorsed by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz.
- Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis
- Second Harvest Heartland
- Sheridan Story
- Keystone Community Services
- Open Arms of Minnesota