By Catherine Martinez
Quarantine and isolation is taxing on students, so several departments have taken responsibility for caring for those who isolate in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. The Office of Spiritual Formation, along with many different departments, has coordinated care packages to begin reaching out to the students in quarantine and provide them with mental and spiritual health resources.
“Canton First Friends, Faith Family, and Damascus Friends churches got us started with a huge donation of snack items,” said Rev. Dr. Linda Leon, director of spiritual formation. The Office of Spiritual Formation is part of Student Development, along with the Counseling Center, the Health Center, and Residence Life. All of these branches are working together to support students in quarantine.
“The care packages are a small part of the huge strategy that Student Development has to care for quarantined students,” Leon said. The bags are pre-packaged for students to receive a few days into their quarantine or isolation.
Max Digman and Gwen Gelofsack, interns with the Office of Spiritual Formation, helped put together the bags. Adam Pearce, worship arts coordinator, and Steph Merchant, leadership and discipleship coordinator, have also been instrumental in putting together and delivering the care packages.
“It’s an enormous effort by our Health Center, housing coordinator, Residence Life staff, Student Development staff, Spiritual Formation staff, housekeeping, maintenance [and] all the professors who have to adjust. Everybody is helping,” Leon said. “We want you to learn, we want you to holistically grow and we want you to be thoroughly supported. We will do whatever we need to to make that happen.”
“We are very aware that their mental health, emotional health [and] spiritual health, are parts of themselves that begin to suffer from isolation and so we want to make sure that they’re being regularly supported,” Leon said.
The bags contain information about the Spiritual Formation support line, the Counseling Center information and the National Crisis Hotline number. They also contain some donated snacks and often a gift card.
“We want to make sure every student gets something. We want our students to know that they are not alone, we see them, we’re thinking about them, we support them [and] we will help them in any way that we can,” Leon said.
The donations the Office of Spiritual Formation received have started to run out, so they have turned to asking staff and faculty for donations, and are open for others to donate encouraging notes and healthy snacks.
If students are looking for a way to get involved, there are openings for volunteers for lunch and dinner deliveries. Contact Linda Leon by emailing email@example.com with any inquiries and she will direct them toward the right person.
Bekah Stranger, a sophomore integrated language arts and integrated social studies double major, has helped with the care packages along with Student Senate.
“Student Senate started with the care packages in Student Development,” Stranger said. “When Student Senate was meeting in person we wrote notes on notecards to be distributed with the care packages, but we’re starting to run out of those.”
Stranger said that if other students would like to write encouraging notes on notecards with a couple of uplifting phrases or Scripture verses it would be helpful. To help out with notes for quarantined students, contact Bekah Stranger through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While many students who move to quarantine and isolation stay on campus, there are also commuter students and those who quarantine at home to consider.
“We realized anyone at home or commuter students can’t receive care packages. We’re hoping to send out notes to those students,” Stranger said.
Having a friend in quarantine is an interesting situation to navigate. “It’s a different dynamic of keeping in contact. You don’t want to bombard them twenty-four hours a day, but you also want to let them know that they are still seen,” Stranger said. “I tried to pick a few friends in my building who are quarantined and I leave them notes in the mornings.”
Ashlynn Koeppe, a junior integrated language arts major, has experienced quarantine on campus and has received a care package from the Office of Spiritual Formation.
“I was grateful for the sweet gesture,” Koeppe said. “They went above and beyond and I’m really grateful for it.” Along with the care package, Koeppe received a note which read “Take some time to rest and be still,” which she said was ironic.
“Step inside the shoes of those quarantined,” Koeppe said about how fellow students can come support students in quarantine and isolation. Koeppe spoke about difficulties with academics, especially in classes where the professors don’t know how to set up the technology and help students in quarantine participate in the course, as well as the confined space.
“The first thing I’m going to do when I get out of quarantine is give someone a hug. I don’t care who, I just want one,” Koeppe said. She went on to describe how those in quarantine have received things that hit on most of the five love languages. They have received a gift: a care package, words of affirmation: encouraging notes, acts of service: meals and quality time: window visits and phone calls. The one love language that can’t be met in quarantine is touch.
“Communicate with your friends in quarantine,” Koeppe said. “Window visits are great, but we don’t always have the emotional capacity to respond correctly even though we’re more free.”
Koeppe said that it is important to acknowledge that quarantined people aren’t necessarily sick and that students are voluntarily going to quarantine to keep everyone on campus safe.
The Office of Spiritual Formation and other Student Development departments are working to improve the experience of those in quarantine and remind them that they are seen and valued. There are many ways that the student body can support these offices, but one of the easiest ways is to check in on those in quarantine.