Safely Serving Seniors
Chowan Campus Ministry kicked off the school year with its annual campus-wide ministry project. This popular event had to be reimagined, as the previous year involved students standing shoulder to shoulder assembling meal packets. The pandemic nixed this usual plan and left Minister to the University, Rev. Mari Wiles, challenged to find a safe way to serve.
“Mari and I were mourning that the tradition of passing out hairnets and making meals would not be possible this year, so we started brainstorming,” shared Lou Ann Gilliam, Director of Church and Community Relations. “I knew the Hertford County Office of Aging was looking for ways to encourage their seniors during this time.” Out of that conversation, Rev. Wiles thought goodie bags would bring seniors a bit of joy.
Rev. Wiles designed a safe way to pack the bags by limiting touchpoints and practicing social distancing. Then mask-wearing students slathered on hand sanitizer and formed well-spaced lines. One by one, students stopped at each table, collecting items for the bags. Campus Ministry supplied useful items like lotions, lip balm, and stress balls. “I had a lot of giveaways intended for our annual SeniorFEST that was canceled due to the pandemic,” said Gilliam, “but that left us with a lot of neat things to include like the NC Baptist Foundation chip clips and Baptist Retirement Home jar openers.”
While some students packed bags, others made cards with notes of encouragement and safety messages. Senior Mary Shomper had the task of keeping the tables stocked. Shomper stated, “since my freshman year, I’ve always participated in this service event. It was amazing to see that we still could do it even though we are in this pandemic. I was amazed to see the turnout; we had a really nice amount of students came out to give back. Service to me is so important, and I’m glad that we still were able to help out our local community in this weird time.”
Rev. Wiles was delighted with how the students responded to this ministry opportunity. “I am energized by our students’ willingness to serve,” said Wiles, “several students told me that serving was the best way to start the year.”
Campus Ministry staff and students passed out bags at the Murfreesboro Nutrition site to go with the curbside meals. The rest were sent to be given out at the other sites. “We are truly blessed to have such a wonderful community partner,” said Director of the Hertford County Office of Aging Deda Evans. “During this time of social isolation for most of our seniors, the staff at the Office of Aging has been hard at work trying to come up with creative yet safe ways to keep our older adults engaged and encouraged. The simple act of kindness shown by these Chowan students with the gifted goodie bags is heartwarming and so appreciated by these older adults.”
The pandemic has left many folks feeling isolated and alone. Campus Ministry sought to combat that loneliness through serving together. Reflecting on this project and the biblical call for hospitality Rev. Wiles expressed, “in a world full of so many things that are wrong, this is something right. People are choosing to work together to meet a need for strangers.”