MOVE student leaders pivot nimbly to keep serving

Adaptations still allow picking apples, partnering with Farm, delivering food, connecting with seniors and kids

September 30, 2020
Staff report
MOVE food delibery

MOVE Core Team leader Sierah Miles, left, and a community volunteer this semester with a trunk full of food that they were able to make and deliver to Dismas House, a transition facility for recently released prisoners.

More people ought to know about and be inspired by “the incredible work MOVE Core Team leaders and student employees are doing to keep their peers engaged and the larger community feeling supported,” even amid the formidable obstacles of the pandemic, says Lara Scott, director of the signature Saint Michael’s College Campus Ministry program MOVE.

Lara Scott

“They truly are faith in action!” says Scott, explaining how MOVE (it stands for Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts) student leaders “have been incredibly flexible and creative as nearly all programs have had to continue to pivot from their traditional programming structures because of COVID. Our student leaders are passionate, creative, committed, and always have the larger community’s needs and safety at the forefront.”

She shared examples:

  • “Special Events has had two successful apple picking events where fresh apples were picked by two small groups of our students and donated to the Vermont Food Bank and Williston Food Shelf. We partner with Chapin Orchard for this event which is traditionally a large scale 120-plus person event. The leaders making this happen are Emily Murray, Ted Rankin, Lexie Lembo, and Anna Witkowski.
  • Outdoor Volunteer Efforts partners with the Farm at Saint Michael’s and is bringing volunteers to the farm and tree nursery on Mondays and Fridays. Our student leaders have made it happen through COVID and we’ve had full sign-up sheets. This is a beautiful partnership with the Farm. Shannon Harty and Anna Beach are the student leaders making this possible.
  • Cook N Food dropped off their first prepared meal of the semester at Dismas House last week – Dismas House is so grateful to have us back. While we cannot prepare meals at Dismas right now and volunteer numbers need to be small, student leaders have been incredibly flexible using campus kitchens to prepare the meal. The same is true for our Cook N Food program at ANEW Place – their meal drop off dates are starting in October. Sierah Miles leads the Dismas program and Kayla Riordan leads ANEW Place (see photo top right).
  • FEED, a group that partners with Williston Food Shelf, continues to volunteer on Tuesdays helping make sure community members are able to access food. Rae Warren is the student leader for FEED.
  • Senior Citizen Games will be volunteering with the Winooski Senior Center in mid-October to carve pumpkins and connect with seniors outdoors. Ellen Arvidson and Elly McKenna lead this program and have been working very hard to find an opportunity to support seniors in this community knowing there is extensive feelings of isolation in that community.
  • All our mentor programs are up and running virtually! Nearly 100 local children continue to me mentored and reminded of their value, importance, and worth because of our incredible student leaders and mentor volunteers.
  • Pen Pals is a new initiative created and offered by two of our Core Team Leaders, Lexie Lembo and Cate Bartlett. They have a group of students writing letters to one another to increase connection and build community, decrease feelings of isolation during this challenging semester.”

Scott said this year’s MOVE student leaders “truly understand the meaning of serving the community and meeting needs. Margaret Mead’s quote, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has’ is something I see being lived out by our amazing leaders more than ever right now!”

Scott also praised her colleague Anna Lester in Campus Ministry. “She has been amazing in her creativity around Campus Ministry events and retreats,” Scott said. “She just finished the first-year retreat at Saint Anne’s Shrine with a small group, but she had a virtual book club and a virtual retreat over the summer because students expressed interest, desire, and need.

anna lester

Anna Lester

“Anna always listens so deeply to our students and works to meet their needs,” Scott said. “Right now she is particularly tuned into their emotions and how they may be feeling about such a different semester. She included beautiful words and reflection at a Resident Assistant prayer service during their training week. She’s working to offer opportunities to Campus Ministry students during their next break day to help keep them engaged. I am just incredibly impressed and inspired by Anna right now as she keeps our students in the center of her ministry and leans into their needs, it’s just beautiful to witness.”

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