Community service for students during the coronavirus pandemic

Xavier Gators volunteer as altar servers to celebrate Mass in the Xavier chapel.

Sister Lynn Winsor

Xavier Gators volunteer as altar servers to celebrate Mass in the Xavier chapel.

Service is integral to the Xavier experience as students are required to complete 50 service hours prior to completion of junior year. Unfortunately due to the pandemic, many community service activities have been suspended. Students were uncertain about how and where to find volunteer hours.

Volunteer options for students struggling to fulfill their service hours can be found, however. Many Gators have done a great job of finding creative ways to reframe service programs. 

By switching over to virtual volunteering and exploring different ways of unconventional service, students will be able to find a plethora of opportunities. 

Sophomore Sarah Castlen said, “It’s been really tough finding service opportunities during a pandemic. I think students, including myself, are feeling a little flustered by it. When we think of service we think of doing. It’s hard not to be somewhere in person.

The sisters have allowed students to log in hours for helping at home. Xavier’s Christian Service Coordinator Gina Iker said, “I know it doesn’t feel like service because it’s your family but helping with chores and taking care of younger siblings is a great way to help your parents.”

Keep in mind the works of mercy, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and caring for the sick. Check out local organizations like St. Mary’s Food Bank or Feed My Starving Children. 

Organize community canned food and clothing drives with friends and family.

Another service opportunity could be found in the elderly community. Senior homes have been in “lockdown” from visitors for the past year with risk of Covid-19, so there are senior homes in need of kind letters and support.

Virtual volunteer roles are emerging in the wake of Covid-19. Senior Kassidy Espinosa said that although the pandemic made certain traditional ways of volunteering unavailable, “it also has offered new opportunities that would not have been available prior to the pandemic.” 

There have been opportunities to write letters to essential workers and to senior citizens in homes that have closed their doors to visitors for the past year, as well as to donate masks to homeless people.

Due to social distancing regulations, parishes are offering multiple Masses as well as online services. New positions like count attendees who monitor attendance capacity or media operators who are responsible for the Mass livestream are in demand.

“Check your email!” says Castlen. Xavier frequently offers volunteer opportunities such as Girls Have It Day and St. Joseph’s Hike for the Homeless, both of which are online this year. 

Virtual volunteering, which may seem odd at first, has made students feel engaged while being at home.

“Find an organization that you’re passionate about and it will make it so much more meaningful,” Castlen said.