Lakers volunteer during pandemic

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Volunteer networksof students, faculty and staff members continue to assist Michigan residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Examples include expanding tutoring services to help any K-12 student in Michigan with remediation and alleviate summer loss because of extended time away from school; and transporting food and non-perishable goods on a weekly basis to a Grand Rapids neighborhood not serviced by a food pantry. 

In late March, President Philomena V. Mantella asked the Grand Valley community to harness its collective talents and volunteer to assist during the COVID-19 pandemic. The result was a volunteer army of nearly 300, divided into 10 subgroups to directly provide assistance for small businesses, K-12 education, vulnerable population support, local nonprofits, and more.

The president of grand valley holds her arm out and gives blood
President Philomena V. Mantella attends a community blood drive at the David D. Hunting YMCA in Grand Rapids. (Kendra Stanley-Mills)

K-12 tutoring expands through summer, goes statewide

The education volunteer network expanded its free 1-on-1 tutoring service from a pilot program in the spring to make services available to any K-12 student in Michigan through August 14.

Amirah Vosburgh, a co-chair of the K-12 Network of Support, said a survey of West Michigan education leaders indicated a need for tutoring services during the summer months. 

More than 30 tutors (GVSU students, faculty, staff, alumni) met virtually with students to help with a range of subjects. The education network was looking into the feasibility of keeping the service going in the fall. Visit to learn more.

Kaufman director sits in a white van
Kyle Kooyers, associate director of the Kaufman Interfaith Institute, sits in a Grand Valley DSR van. The vans are used to distribute food to a Grand Rapids neighborhood. (Valerie Wojciechowski)

Volunteers assist with food distribution

The vulnerable population volunteer network has delivered and distributed food and non-perishable goods to residents in the Roosevelt Park neighborhood in Grand Rapids. This collaboration with the Hispanic Center of West Michigan began in April and continues weekly.

Kyle Kooyers, associate director of the Kaufman Interfaith Institute, said the neighborhood is not serviced by a food pantry. 

The Hispanic Center partnered with a vendor for food but did not have transportation. Kooyers said Grand Valley leaders quickly agreed to offer university vans to transport food and goods. “I was impressed with how quickly this happened; we had a policy and procedures for volunteers worked out within a week,” he said.

The food distribution continues to serve about 150 households weekly. Even as the initial vendor changed, Kooyers said GVSU volunteers collected $2,400 to work with volunteers from Trinity United Methodist Church to keep the distribution going.

Zahabia Ahmed-Usmani, program coordinator for Kaufman Interfaith Institute, said more partnerships with nonprofit organizations have been made during this distribution process, including Great Start for children’s books and the YMCA for fresh produce.

The Networks of Support are tied to Mantella’s Reach Higher Together initiative; many subgroups continue to meet and assist when needed.

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