The COVID-19 pandemic did little to deter Ball State University students from serving their communities throughout the country — particularly those in Muncie and Delaware County — during the Fall semester.
In fact, data recently released by Ball State’s Student Voluntary Services (SVS) indicates the student population thrived in its collective volunteer efforts, despite the challenges the virus presented.
According to SVS, as of mid-December, 494 Ball State students logged more than 7,512 volunteer hours at 55 partner sites during the Fall semester. Some of those students, who come from all academic disciplines and majors, serve through SVS to complete service-learning requirements for classes, while others sign up on their own accord.
Despite the limitations, Ball State students still found ways to positively impact areas hit hardest by the pandemic throughout the Fall semester. When it comes to food insecurity, for example, there were more than 2,000 student volunteer hours logged at Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana, and more than 1,000 hours logged with Muncie Mission Ministries.
Ball State students also made their mark aiding local education efforts; there were more than 1,000 volunteer hours logged between the 21st Century Community Learning Center’s Great Achievers program and Motivate Our Minds.
Kara Westfall, assistant director of student life, said she has been thrilled with the effort and resiliency shown by Ball State students during unprecedented times.
“We have amazing students here at Ball State,” Westfall said. “I couldn’t be more proud to work with the students that we have. They have such a commitment to our community and to giving back. They persevere and they want to find ways to still contribute and give to others.”
Westfall said the COVID-19 pandemic “really changed what volunteering looks like” for the time being, but has also opened eyes to some more modern service methods moving forward.
For example, SVS each week would usually send 50 to 60 groups of volunteers together to local agencies in University vehicles, but for most of this past year the organization has not been able to provide transportation due to vehicle sanitization requirements. That left many students either utilizing public transportation or finding other means to get to their various programs.
Westfall said social distancing requirements also have impacted volunteer opportunities, as some facilities have a significantly smaller capacity due to requirements that occupants stand at least six feet apart.
When volunteering in person wasn’t an option, students came up with creative ways to make a positive impact with community partners.
Some Ball State students created paintings and other works of art to give to nursing home residents who haven’t been able to accept visitors. Some students created entire workbook kits for kids in after-school programs. Others helped agencies update various marketing efforts, whether through graphic design or social media campaigns.
“These are all things that our students can do that we can count as volunteer hours, because they are serving and giving back,” Westfall said. “I think our students and the agencies have done a really good job of being willing to adapt and change. The students have really enjoyed being able to do some things from home, or from their Ball State home, and still get to be volunteering. And I think the agencies are seeing what a benefit some of our students’ talents are that they didn’t even realize were an option before.
“We’re still going to have a huge need for those in-person service opportunities,” Westfall continued. “Second Harvest, for example, is still going to need us to send students out there to help sort potatoes. But there are other things that we could be doing to help them and to give back.”
Jeffery Whatley, a Ball State senior and President of SVS, commended his fellow students for making the most of a challenging situation this Fall.
Members of the Ball State Fraternity and Sorority Life community, for example, were not required to complete any volunteer hours in the Fall due to the pandemic. But that didn’t stop 87 members of Ball State’s Greek chapters from logging more than 800 combined hours of service over the last few months.
“Nobody knew what this year was going to throw at us, so it’s been challenging and fun trying to work around COVID and still provide those volunteer opportunities,” said Whatley, a pre-medicine/biology major. “I think this shows just how important giving back to the community really is to Ball State students.”
For more information on service opportunities for students, visit the Ball State Student Voluntary Services website or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.