Volunteer networks expand tutoring services, assist with food distribution during COVID-19

man sitting near van packed with food
Kyle Kooyers, associate director of the Kaufman Interfaith Institute, sits by a DSR van from Grand Valley. The vans are used to help distribute food to a Grand Rapids neighborhood.
Image credit - Valerie Wojciechowski

Volunteer networks of students, faculty and staff members from Grand Valley continue to assist Michigan residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Volunteers have expanded tutoring services to help any K-12 student in Michigan with remediation and alleviate summer loss with the extended time away from school; and continue to transport food and non-perishable goods on a weekly basis to a Grand Rapids neighborhood. Details on both efforts are below.

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.

K-12 tutoring expands through summer, goes statewide

The Education Volunteer Network has 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. The service began June 22 and will run 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. 

A growing list of 35 tutors (GVSU students, faculty, staff, alumni) are available by appointment to help with a range of subjects; information is online at gvsu.edu/pathways.

Parental consent is needed, and GVSU students facilitate the initial meeting between a tutor and K-12 student. A link to Blackboard Collaborate is sent to the family once a session is arranged.

Vosburgh said tutors are available for subject work and will not provide curriculum lessons. "This service is built to provide individual help with a subject a student might struggle with," she said.

More than 150 appointments have been scheduled, with nearly 50 taking place during the first full week of operation.

Volunteers assist with food distribution

The Vulnerable Population 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 Roosevelt Park area is bordered by Wealthy Street to the north, Burton Street to the south, Clyde Park to the west and Century Avenue to the east.

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.

"Now, thanks to the Hispanic Center, we have working relationships with more community partners and we can authentically build trust and relationships that will serve the university for many years to come," Ahmed-Usmani said.

Learn more about the Networks of Support online.


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