At Alma College, volunteering is a key priority for many sports’ teams. With many of their seasons on hold, athletes are finding new and safe ways to continue giving back to the community. Although volunteering may be taking a different form, the Scots are not letting COVID-19 take another opportunity away from them.
“Last year, volunteering opportunities were easier to find as a team and on my own” said sophomore lacrosse player, Ava Frederickson (’23).
“Since COVID, however, there are more restrictions on where people can volunteer and how many people you can have. It makes it difficult to volunteer as a team, which is a big part of Alma athletics.”
Coming into this year, athletes were not quite sure how volunteering was going to look. With many teams relying heavily on community service as a pillar of what they stand for, teams had to become innovative, especially within the community.
“Volunteering has changed a lot this year due to Covid,” said senior women’s swimmer, Haven Westra (21).
“We often serve in-person at the Masonic Home, which is a high-risk population, so we have been unable to do that. Additionally, our team of 40 people cannot all meet together to volunteer due to the social distancing guidelines. We have switched to remote service or volunteering outside.”
Despite social distancing and gathering limitations, teams are still finding different ways to come together as a team. Whether this means meeting online or outside where social distancing can happen, teams are finding ways to stay connected in order to give back to the community.
“I think it is important to volunteer during the pandemic because a lot of people are struggling right now and can use assistance and encouragement” said Westra.
“It is possible to be creative and intentional to ensure the safety of volunteers and those who we are serving.
As difficult as the pandemic has been for student-athletes, it is important to look at the bigger picture of our community and do what we can to help others.”
Volunteering during a pandemic may not seem like a priority, but to a few teams, such as the Women’s Swim and Dive team as well as the Women’s Lacrosse team, it is crucial to not only thank the community for their support, but to remind them that we have not forgotten about them and everything they have done for the teams and college.
In particular, Alma’s Masonic Home has always been one of the sports’ teams’ favorite places to volunteer at. Athletes enjoyed having the opportunity to play minute-towin-it games or charades with the residents. Hence, teams have had to come up with innovative ways to stay connected.
“We made cards for the residents at the Masonic Home last week,” said Westra. “We wrote encouraging messages to them since the residents have not been able to have visitors due to the pandemic. We chose to take part in the opportunity because it would be a great remote option for our large team to volunteer in the Alma community. This opportunity was provided through the Student Athlete Advisory Committee and the SAAC Community Outreach Coordinator, Joe Vondrasek.”
Teams are not the only ones working on outreach to the community. Committees, such as SAAC, are helping teams and students stay involved within the community by offering safe volunteering opportunities for everyone involved. The online app, HelperHelper, also helps provide athletes with updates on upcoming events that need volunteers for in-person and virtual aid.
All of these volunteering moments not only help the community physically but socially as well.
“I believe part of building a community is through creating a strong support system but also through making friendships” said Frederickson.
“Volunteering helps build friendships and connections through the people you meet. It builds character and helps people to understand different point of views. Right now, the world is hurting and it’s important for people to help in any way they can, and the stronger the community, the better they can protect everyone within it. Without volunteers’, nonprofits like the community café would suffer and most would not be able to serve their purpose(s).”
While teams are focusing their attention towards the Alma community, individual players are also generating their energy towards others outside of the community. In Frederickson’s case, she volunteers through online mentoring, dog walking, helping at many nonprofits, such as the Community Café, and conducting surveys for the upcoming election.
In Westra’s case, her volunteering embodies a more team focus thanks to the push from her new coach. With no direct cure for coronavirus in sight, athletes plan to continue their new and safe form of volunteering to give back to the community throughout the school year.