Cadets from The Citadel Provide Food for Hundreds of Veterans in Charleston, S.C.

America’s veterans served their countries in peacetime and in war, and students at The Citadel, a Sullivan Foundation partner school, returned the favor in a recent project for Soldiers’ Angels, a San Antonio-based nonprofit that provides aid, comfort and resources to active-duty service members and veterans.

Students in The Citadel Health Careers Society, joined by others from the college, spent a Friday morning in early October volunteering with Soldiers’ Angels, supplying low-income veteran families with food assistance.

Related: Cadet leader at The Citadel walks 24 hours straight to learn empathy with black Americans

About 250 low-income veterans from the Charleston, S.C. area were served, and each received about 70 pounds of food, including fresh fruit and vegetables, grains, frozen chicken, many varieties of frozen meals and canned goods, and drinks.

“We simply have the best at The Citadel, said Dr. Sarah Imam, a 2019 recipient of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, the faculty administrator for the society and a professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance. “Not only did this group of cadets and students volunteer, they did so wholeheartedly and with enthusiasm. They interacted with the veterans, addressed them with courtesy, asked them about their branch and thanked them for their service.”

In total, 25 cadets, one veteran graduate student and three members of the faculty and staff were on site to help those heroes who are in need.

“I had students from across the school, from all majors—not just those that are pursuing a health career—who joined in with [the event] today,” Imam said. “These students genuinely care about our community and our veterans.”

The Citadel Health Careers Society is a student-led organization for cadets and students from any major who want to pursue a healthcare career. The society helps members become more competitive applicants for postgraduate studies.

The volunteers from The Citadel worked at the Elks Lodge in Charleston from 8 a.m.–12:30 p.m. on Friday, October 9.

Soldiers’ Angels has a global network of volunteers—representing all 50 states and 12 countries abroad—who work to ensure that those who serve or have served are supported, uplifted and remembered through a variety of support programs.

This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on The Citadel’s website.

Canadian Study Proves Stereotypes About Homeless People Are Wrong

Conventional wisdom says giving money to homeless people might not do them much good—many will just blow it on booze, drugs or smokes. But conventional wisdom appears to be wrong, according to a research projected conducted by Vancouver nonprofit Foundations for Social Change in partnership with the University of British Columbia.

Dubbed the New Leaf Project (NLP), the initiative is described as “the world’s first direct cash transfer program to empower people to move beyond homelessness in Canada.”

Related: Davidson College bestows Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award on student with a heart for the homeless

Researchers for the NLP gave 50 homeless people a lump sum of $7,500 each (equivalent to about $5,700 in U.S. dollars). Then, they tracked the recipients’ lives over the next 12 months and compared their outcomes to those of a control group that didn’t receive any money.

The result: Most spent the money on vital needs such as food, housing, transportation and clothing, and many even saved money over the next year.

“Project participants have seen measurable improvements in their lives after receiving the cash transfer, and we are passionate about expanding our work,” the Foundations for Social Change said in a description of the project on its website.

Study participants were required to complete questionnaires one month after receiving the money and then every three months. They also completed open-ended qualitative interviews after six and 12 months. Participants had been homeless for an average of six months, and one in four had jobs. The average age of participants was 42, with a range of 19 to 64 years old. Sixty percent were men, 40 percent were women, and one-third of the participants had children.

Related: Unlocked, a Nashville jewelry company, opens doors for homeless women

The study concluded that the cash recipients moved into stable housing faster than the non-cash participants (the control group) and, overall, spent fewer days homeless. The cash recipients’ days of homelessness dropped from 77 percent to 49 percent in the first month. Meanwhile, homelessness for the non-cash group increased from 64 percent to 78 percent.

On average, the group that received cash moved into stable housing within three months, while it took an average of five months for the non-cash participants to find stable housing.

The cash recipients also “prioritized and increased spending on recurring staples like housing/rent, food, transportation and utility bills,” the study found. “On average, cash recipients spent 52 percent of their budget on food and rent, 15 percent on ‘other’ items such as medications and bills, and 16 percent on clothes and transportation.”

Some also made one-time purchases of items like furniture, computers, bikes and vehicles.

And most didn’t blow the money quickly or impulsively. The study found that cash recipients had saved $4,000 after one month and $1,000 through 12 months.

They also used the money to improve their food security situation. Sixty-seven percent of the cash recipients were food-secure after one month, an increase of 37 percentage points from baseline. Food security for the non-cash group only increased by two percentage points in the same time period.

The study also found the cash recipients spent 39 percent less on non-essential goods like alcohol, cigarettes or drugs.

“The homeless population continues to grow, and we keep applying the same old approaches,” Claire Williams, CEO and co-founder of Foundations for Social Change, told CNN. “We really think it’s important to start testing meaningful risk-taking in the name of social change.”

She added that direct cash transfers are not a “silver bullet for homelessness in general.” The NLP focused on a “higher functioning subset of the homeless population” who had been screened for problems like mental illness and substance abuse.

But participants in the study largely used the money to improve their lives. “There are certainly people who are homeless who have deeper, more severe problems,” Steve Berg, a vice president with the Washington, D.C.-based National Alliance to End Homelessness, told CNN. “But for many people, it’s simply a matter of they ran out of money, lost a job, fell on hard times, became homeless. Once they’re homeless, it’s very difficult to get enough money saved up in order to find a place to live.”

“People can be relied on, if they get the money upfront, to take care of the problem themselves,” Berg added.

One cash recipient in the study, identified as Amy, said the money gave her a much-needed confidence boost. “[Receiving the money] made me feel important,” she said. “It’s like a silent cheering squad in the back of my mind … They have faith in me, so I have faith in myself.”

University of Alabama Student Organizes Relief Effort for Hurricane Laura Victims

In the early morning hours of Aug. 27, Hurricane Laura ripped through Louisiana. Five hundred miles away in Tuscaloosa, Kana Webb, a sophomore at Sullivan Foundation partner school University of Alabama, watched live coverage as the town where she grew up was torn apart.

“Hurricane Laura devastated my hometown of Lake Charles and the surrounding areas,” the biology major said. “There are people who lost everything, people who have nothing—no running water, no power. Some aren’t expected to have power back until November. Where do you go from there?”

Related: University of Alabama senior creates greeting cards to cheer up residents of nursing homes

Among those dealing with significant damage was Webb’s grandmother, whose house was flooded and struck by a tree. The material loss was great, but it’s much deeper than that.

“My grandmother and so many others are struggling with the emotional side of this,” said Webb. “There’s so much more to it than a house. It’s a home, and it has so many memories with it. Financial issues aside, there’s an emotional aspect to losing a home and to losing everything that you have. There’s a sentimental side to it.”

As Webb watched the destruction of Hurricane Laura unfold on the news, she immediately started thinking of what she could do to help. “My heart broke for the people,” she said. “It broke for my family. I wished I could just hug them and everyone in my hometown in that moment.”

Being seven hours away from home prevented her from wrapping her arms around the people and town she loves, but she knew she had to do something. “With the limited resources available in Lake Charles following the hurricane, I figured the first thing I could do was organize a supply drive,” Webb said.

Related: University of Alabama honors two students and one administrator with Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards

She reached out to her friends, sorority sisters and a few campus organizations she’s involved in, including the Student Government Association, the Panhellenic Association and the Center for Service and Leadership. “I was overwhelmed with the response that I received just from sending out a quick message to my friends and letting them know the situation,” she said.

A few days later, Webb packed a trailer full of supplies and headed out to deliver over $1,500 worth of donations to a local church in Lake Charles. “They were so grateful to have received all of that,” said Webb. “It was basic necessities, but those are the things they were running out of and needed most—toilet paper, hygiene products and water.”

That was only the beginning of Webb’s efforts. With the support of the SGA, the Panhellenic community, Beyond Bama and the Capstone College of Nursing, she is partnering with United Way of West Alabama to raise money for those impacted by Hurricane Laura and to aid in rebuilding.

“I’m having trouble putting into words how thankful I am,” Webb said. “I’m so grateful for my friends [and] for my new family at UA that has contributed and helped out in a time of such need for my hometown. Thank you to everyone who has offered donations, supplies or even just support. Y’all are all amazing, and I am so grateful, and so is Louisiana.”

This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the University of Alabama website.

Winthrop University Student Uses National Guard Position to Serve Children in Need

Charles Hoffmann, a Winthrop University student majoring in elementary education, traveled to Horry County, S.C., in April 2020 for what was originally a two-week mission to deliver meals to children in need. It ended up turning into two months.

Growing up in Clover, S.C., Hoffmann, a U.S. Army National Guard Specialist, greatly admired his parents’ and grandfather’s dedication to their country. His mother served as a Judge Advocate General in the Tennessee Army Guard for 24 years, while his father served as a field artillery officer in the 101st Airborne Division.

“I mainly joined the National Guard to help pay for school but also because I wanted to carry on the tradition of serving in my family,” Hoffmann said. “Both my parents served in the Army as well as my grandfather, and it makes me extremely proud to follow in their footsteps.”

As part of their work with the Guard’s 1050th Transportation Battalion and the 178th Engineer Battalion, Hoffmann and his fellow soldiers found themselves in Horry County this spring.

“We were tasked with driving the school buses on routes to deliver meals to kids,” Hoffmann explained. “My route took me right into downtown Myrtle Beach, and I had several stops at motels and trailer parks where hundreds of kids live. The civilian bus drivers that had been doing my route before had been handing out books to the kids.”

He decided to try and raise money to buy books. “Once the librarians in the school district found out what we were doing, we had more books than we could give away,” Hoffmann said. “In total, we distributed upwards of 2,000 books throughout Horry County. This was only made possible with the help of my fellow soldiers from the 1050th Transportation Battalion and the 178th Engineer Battalion.”

For his efforts, Hoffmann was honored by NASCAR this summer as part of its NASCAR Salutes Refreshing Moments campaign.

Throughout his National Guard career, Hoffmann said, he has appreciated being able to take part in COVID-19 relief missions, including missions for DHEC, the Medical University of South Carolina and other medical organizations that are operating mobile test sites statewide.

Hoffmann’s wife, Hadasah, is currently studying exercise science at Winthrop. After graduation, Hoffmann hopes to pursue full-time opportunities with the National Guard, continuing his love of service.

“Being able to serve your country as well as your community and state is one of the reasons the National Guard is so unique,” he said.

This story has been edited from the original version appearing on the Winthrop University website.

Carson-Newman University Professor to Cycle 100 Miles in Fundraiser for Appalachian Outreach

Everyone has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. For some, it has been a nuisance. For others, it has been devastating.

For Dr. Joshua Zink, an assistant professor of music at Sullivan Foundation partner school Carson-Newman University, seeing so many in need has led him to want to do something about it.

That is why on Saturday, Oct. 3, Zink plans to ride his bike some 100 miles, from Johnson City, Tenn., to downtown Knoxville, to raise funds for Carson-Newman’s Appalachian Outreach (AO). He’s seeking donors to help support the effort, with all money raised going to the outreach ministry.

Carson-Newman is one of the few schools in the nation that runs its own poverty-relief ministry. AO serves people in need throughout eastern Tennessee with food, clothing, firewood, counseling, spiritual guidance and other services. The university also operates its own family shelter called the Samaritan House, whose coverage spans Jefferson, Grainger, Hamblen and Cocke Counties.

“Cycling 100 miles for Appalachian Outreach would be very meaningful to me,” Zink said. “During this time of COVID-19, so many people are hurting in serious ways. I wanted to find a way to help in an impactful way.”

Zink said that choosing Appalachian Outreach was a no-brainer after seeing how much the ministry has been helping people around the region, especially during the pandemic. One of the biggest ways the ministry is having an impact is through its food distribution efforts for families in need.

“We have all been in times of need in various ways in our lives,” Zink said. “I know that, in my own times of struggle, God put people in place to help when I needed it most. This challenge is a great way to assist a wonderful organization’s ministry right here in our own backyard.”

Jean-Ann Washam, director of AO, said the timing could not be better, as the ministry has seen an increase in demand by the hundreds compared to the same time the previous year. “Because of COVID-19, we are looking at having to cancel our annual banquet, which is our largest fundraiser,” Washam said. “That makes sponsorships for Dr. Zink’s Century Ride that much more important.”

An avid runner and marathon competitor, Zink said that, when the pandemic forced competitions to cancel events, he began looking for a new outlet that catered to endurance. Biking seemed to be the perfect option.

Those who want to contribute may give online at

For more information, call 865-471-3408 or email Zink at

This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Carson-Newman University website.

Cumberlands’ Board Games Drive Brightens Lives of Homeless Youths

When homeless youth staying at Ryan’s Place, a safe haven in Barbourville, Ky., were asked what they wanted most at the shelter, they said, “We would like some games to play together.” Jessi Montgomery, the fund development manager for Ryan’s Place and a graduate of Sullivan Foundation partner school University of the Cumberlands, who was finishing her MBA through the university at the time, was stunned. She’d been discussing the shelter’s funding needs with other staff and was trying to narrow down what Ryan’s Place needed most by asking the residents themselves. She didn’t expect games to be at the top of their list.

“These young adults have nothing, yet their only request was something to share with each other,” Montgomery said. “I was floored. I was expecting a long list of building repairs, vehicles and other expensive items, but all they wanted was something to share. That evening, when I was logging into my Cumberlands MBA classes, I saw a Pats Serve article. I realized Cumberlands’ commitment to the community and reached out.”

She was immediately contacted by Dr. Jennifer Simpson, the associate dean of academic affairs at Cumberlands. The two of them began organizing a board game drive for Ryan’s Place with Provost Emily Coleman and the Office of Student Services. Cumberlands’ Department of Athletics stepped in to sponsor the drive, encouraging each sports team to bring in a board game.

In all, between 15 and 20 games—like Phase 10, Uno and Sorry!—were collected and brought to Cumberlands’ campus for Montgomery to pick up. Simpson said in an email to Montgomery that she hoped the games would “provide hours of bonding, laughter and smiles” for the young adults.

They have. Especially during social distancing mandates, the residents were grateful to have something new and fun to enjoy together to fill their time indoors. According to Montgomery, game nights “are now a frequent occurrence” at Ryan’s Place.

“Seeing our athletics department step up to help Ryan’s Place and being contacted by caring students like Jessi is a wonderful representation of our mission to lead through service,” Simpson said. “Jessi recognized that it’s not just something we say, it’s a mission we live, and we’re thankful she reached out. We got the opportunity to serve youth in our community in a way we never had before.”

Ryan’s Place was opened in 2018 by KCEOC Community Action Partnership and serves as a safe haven for homeless youth aged 18-24. It is funded by Kentucky Housing Corporation and HUD’s (Housing and Urban Development) Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program by a grant made available to Promise Zone counties.

The shelter is named in memory of Ryan White, a young man who found himself homeless several times in his life. He always trusted KCEOC (Kentucky Communities Economic Opportunity Council) in his times of need and later became an advocate for other homeless youth. Ryan, who served on the Youth Action Board throughout the grant proposal process, sadly passed away in a car accident just days after his 18th birthday, right before the youth shelter was opened. Ryan wanted other homeless youth to have a voice and a safe place to stay. KCEOC named the shelter “Ryan’s Place” and dedicated it to his memory and his mission.

The goal of Ryan’s Place is for all residents to be able to become self-sufficient. It offers an on-site case manager, employment services, life skills, and basic “adulting” lessons. Ryan’s Place follows KCEOC’s principle of offering clients a hand up, not a handout.

Jessi Montgomery graduated summa cum laude from Cumberlands in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in human services and completed her online MBA at Cumberlands in May 2020. For the past several years, Montgomery has worked in a variety of community-centered organizations and nonprofits.

This article was edited slightly from the original version appearing on the University of the Cumberlands website.

New Mercer University Center Could Provide Millions With Access to Clean Water

A new center at Sullivan Foundation partner school Mercer University aims to help the world’s most water-poor communities get access to clean water.

Mercer University established the Cecil Day Family Center for International Groundwater Innovation on June 11. The center, led by Dr. Michael MacCarthy, will accelerate efforts in the Mercer On Mission program and Mercer’s School of Engineering to solve water problems around the world, particularly in developing countries.

The Cecil Day Family Center for International Groundwater Innovation was seeded with a seven-figure gift from Deen Day Sanders, a Mercer alumna and former trustee from Atlanta.

Related: Sullivan Foundation alumnus Elizabeth DeWetter organizes 6K fundraiser to build wells in Zambia

“The University is deeply grateful to Deen Day Sanders for this significant gift that will literally bring clean drinking water to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people around the world,” said Mercer President William D. Underwood. “The solutions that will come out of the Cecil Day Family Center for International Groundwater Innovation, working with local community leaders initially in the Dominican Republic, Madagascar and Uganda, will be a game-changer in developing sustainable, replicable methods of delivering clean water to the thirsty throughout the world.”

Sanders’ late husband, Cecil B. Day Sr., founded Days Inns of America and was a noted philanthropist. He is the namesake Mercer’s graduate and professional campus in Atlanta.

“We look forward to building upon Mercer’s successes over the past decade working with local actors in developing communities to improve access to safe drinking water,” said MacCarthy, assistant professor of environmental and civil engineering and director of the Engineering for Development program.

MaCarthy said the new center “allows us the opportunity to contribute significantly to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal target of providing safe water for all by the year 2030, which we aim to do through working with collaborators globally to focus on some of the hardest to reach households and communities.”

Related: Wofford College social entrepreneurs plant a SEED. for global change

“In addition to service and research, the center will use innovative and practical ways to teach sustainable groundwater topics to Mercer students and project beneficiaries,” he added.

Globally, more than one billion people lack access to clean, safe water, and two million die annually as a result of drinking contaminated water. The United Nations declared the decade of 2018-2028 as “the water decade,” noting that “the world is careening towards a global water crisis.”

The work of the Cecil Day Family Center will focus on three core components—household self-supply, small community water systems and global groundwater innovation—to provide an extensive approach to tackling the global water crisis.

“For many years I have been interested in the environment and water quality in particular,” Sanders said. “This program, that also supports students in their desire to learn and to help others in need, certainly aligns with those interests. I am blessed to be a part of it.”

Mercer students, community members and technicians stand in front of a stone masonry water tank in the Dominican Republic. (Photo by Dr. Michael MacCarthy/Mercer On Mission)

Through the Mercer On Mission program, the University has been addressing the urgent need for access to clean water since 2010 in Kenya, Madagascar, Uganda and the Dominican Republic.

“This incredibly generous gift by Deen Day Sanders to the Mercer On Mission program will bring together world-renowned researchers and practitioners to address one of the world’s most perilous crises: lack of access to clean water,” said Dr. Craig McMahan, Mercer University minister and dean of Chapel, who oversees Mercer On Mission. “Combining tried-and-true methods with breakthrough technology, the project launched by this gift will save the lives of thousands of people and will bring health and hope to millions more. What a fitting expression of the vision and compassion that have always been at the center of Deen Day Sanders’ life.”

Related: Mercer University grad focuses on HIV prevention in Peace Corps work

In the years ahead, hundreds of Mercer students will engage in Mercer On Mission programs in impoverished areas of Africa and the Caribbean while taking courses from and serving closely with MacCarthy, a leading expert on cost-effective rural water supply solutions in the developing world. Scores of other students will join MacCarthy’s research groups to design and test cutting-edge innovations in groundwater protocols and technology.

The Cecil Day Family Center will allow MacCarthy and his students to move into a new phase of their collaborative work with Dr. John Cherry and Dr. Beth Parker of the G360 Institute for Groundwater Research at the University of Guelph in Canada, a world-leading group in fractured-rock and applied groundwater research. Cherry and Parker are internationally renowned hydrogeologists, and Cherry is the 2020 recipient of the Stockholm Water Prize, the world’s most prestigious water award.

The center’s activities will be aimed at bringing access to safe water to tens of thousands of people, while also piloting and refining innovative systems that have the potential to bring first-time access to clean water to tens of millions of the people living in rural mountainous communities worldwide.

This article has been edited from the original version appearing on the Mercer University website.

The ‘Invisible Front Lines’: How Brenau University Helps Unseen and Forgotten Populations Survive the Pandemic

Tara Lynch, an alumnus of Sullivan Foundation partner school Brenau University’s Women’s College, works on what she calls the “invisible front lines” of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lynch is a psychiatric mental nurse practitioner for Salveo Integrative Health, which provides behavioral and mental health services throughout North Georgia and statewide through community and organizational partnerships. She also works in private practice three days a week.

Lynch, who earned her B.S. in Nursing, said the current climate has been especially challenging for her clients, including the low-income, inadequately housed and homeless population she works with at Hope Clinic in Lawrenceville.

Related: Social enterprise takes kids on a global journey of the imagination to cope with the pandemic

“The homeless population has been largely unseen in this crisis,” Lynch said. “Often they depend on businesses such as fast food restaurants and coffee shops to be able to use the restroom, freshen up daily, obtain inexpensive hot meals and stay hydrated. With many dining rooms and restrooms closed, they have very limited options.”

photo of mental health nurse practitioner Tara Lynch in her white medical jacket

Tara Lynch

Lynch says anxiety and depression have also been a problem for her clients, especially among high school seniors who had to leave school early. And for more severely ill individuals, such as those diagnosed with schizophrenia, she says changes in their routines have been particularly devastating.

“Stability is key for this population, and the rampant conspiracy theories surrounding COVID-19 are difficult and frightening for this population,” she said.

Aside from delivering medication samples and making welfare checks on behalf of families who may not have heard from a loved one with mental health challenges, Lynch—like many others in her field—has been working from home since social-distancing measures were put in place. This has made it hard for some of her clients to get in-person treatment, since many of them do not know how to use technology, have limited or no internet access, or do not own a computer or smartphone.

Related: Davidson College alumnus helps spearhead Feed the Front Line Charlotte initiative

Finding treatment locations has also been a problem for Jennifer Langston, a Brenau University senior majoring in psychology and the executive director of Reboot Jackson. Langston’s organization provides peer support and resources to those seeking recovery from mental health and substance use disorders in Jackson County, Georgia.

“When people come to us now asking for help finding somewhere to go to treatment, we are hard pressed to find a place that is doing intakes because of COVID-19,” she said. “There is just nowhere for people to go.”

photo of jennifer langston of Reboot Jackson with colleagues in black logoed shirts

Jennifer Langston (right), executive director of Reboot Jackson, with colleagues

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, Langston says the number of individuals that Reboot Jackson serves has more than doubled. The organization has moved its programming online and is providing support groups for those in recovery, including groups specifically for military veterans.

“This population is of deep concern at present in the mental health and recovery communities as they may be particularly vulnerable to relapse or experience other complications during this time,” Langston said.

Housing has also become a major barrier. Several treatment facilities to which Reboot Jackson normally refers people have shut their doors, and some have even asked current clients to leave and return at a later time. All Langston and her team can do is forge ahead with what is not beyond their control.

“My staff and I have tripled our efforts to connect with our peers and with one another,” she said. “We have been working in the office, working from home, answering our phones in the middle of the night—and juggling this all while trying to practice our own self-care.”

Like Lynch and Langston, Assistant Professor of Psychology Melanie Covert has also been busy on the mental health front. Covert is volunteering with the Georgia COVID-19 Emotional Support Line (866-399-8938), which provides support, coping strategies and follow-up resources for those impacted psychologically or emotionally by COVID-19.

Covert, who earned her master’s in clinical counseling psychology from Brenau, typically works the line four or five shifts a week, either from noon to 4 p.m. or midnight to 4 a.m. While that might sound arduous, she says she is able to do so from home while also fulfilling her other responsibilities.

“I am really grateful to be able to serve others in some small way and to do my part in helping our community get through this together,” Covert says.

Melanie Covert, instructor of psychology at Brenau University (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Department of Psychology Chair Julie Battle says Brenau University faculty members and students have done an amazing job of adapting to the current environment, even as they continue to do volunteer and other work outside of the classroom.

“We are working hard to support each other and to continue with our academic mission,” Battle said. “This is especially challenging for educational and clinical programs in which students provide clinical services to others as part of their training.”

Despite those challenges, she said Brenau continues to provide “an extraordinary educational experience.”

Related: Mary Baldwin University staff and students find myriad ways to serve community during pandemic

That experience includes offering care and services for students during what has been a tough adjustment for some, an adjustment that Brenau Counselor Gay Baldwin says could potentially lead to cases of situational depression or anxiety.

Particularly at issue, Baldwin says, are the dynamics that students face when going back home and trying to complete schoolwork in an environment they might not be used to.

“Going to classes online, taking and studying for exams, writing papers, and doing all of that while parents and siblings are around – students have to set some boundaries,” she said.

Gay Baldwin

When the university moved from on-ground to remote learning, Baldwin says she made a note of students she typically works with and quickly reached out to them.

“I sent them all an email to let them know, ‘I’m here and available to help,’” she says.

Baldwin has been practicing telemental health for about four years, which she says made for an easier transition from mostly in-person counseling to sessions by email, text, phone, Zoom or FaceTime. Relaxed HIPAA standards in regard to telemental health and COVID-19 have also allowed her to provide better services.

“I’m just glad I can be here for our students,” Baldwin said.

This story was edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Brenau University website.

Davidson College Alumnus Helps Spearhead Feed the Front Line Charlotte Initiative

Like millions of Americans, Jenna Brunner, an alumnus of Sullivan Foundation partner school Davidson College, and her Wells Fargo colleagues quickly adjusted to working from home. But it wasn’t long before conversation during weekly remote meetings turned to how they could make a difference in the community.

In a matter of days, inspired by a similar program in Texas, they developed an initiative with a two-fold purpose: to deliver thousands of meals to front-line healthcare workers in Charlotte, N.C. and help generate revenue for local restaurants.

Brunner and three teammates created Feed the Front Line (FTFL) Charlotte.

Related: “Pledge My Check” campaign asks affluent Americans to donate their stimulus checks to people in need

As of just three weeks after the official launch, the group had surpassed $50,000 in donations, which equaled 5,000 meals. Every dollar given to FTFL goes directly to the partner restaurants, who then prepare and deliver meals to Charlotte hospital workers.

“The goal was to be as efficient as possible in getting this off the ground because the need was, and continues to be, very urgent,” Brunner said. “Just last week, we ramped up to three deliveries per day—that equals 1,400 meals between Sunday and Friday.”

The restaurants have been generous, throwing in extra meals with the orders and making their dishes available at a lower cost so each donation does more. Currently, there are close to 20 partner restaurants, including Haberdish, Crepe Cellar Kitchen & Pub and Growlers Pourhouse, all run by Davidson alumni Jeff Tonidandel and Jamie Brown. The pair also owns Reigning Doughnuts and is in the process of opening a fifth concept.

“This is a hard time for restaurants, big and small,” Brown said. “Prior to COVID-19, we had businesses based highly upon creating an experience for guests, and now we’ve been reduced to take-out. It’s a totally different business. We’ve also lost a gigantic portion of our team, and there has been a lot of emotion around that loss. Still, we are keeping our chins up and trying to find ways to get through. FTFL Charlotte is a part of weathering this storm.”

Related: Newberry College promises tuition freeze for incoming freshmen

While restaurants have suffered significant job and revenue loss, this partnership helps with those who are still working every day.

“I think a big benefit in being a part of FTFL Charlotte is the boost of morale among our team members,” Brown said. “Our staff takes pride in making these meals for our healthcare workers. It’s an incredible opportunity to feel like we are part of the solution and part of keeping our front-line workers fed.”

As fundraising grows, FTFL will add more partners.

“It’s very clear that people are looking for ways to give back during this time. Luckily, getting involved with FTFL Charlotte is something you can do from the comfort of your own home, while abiding by the various stay-at-home restrictions in place,” Brunner said. “What’s unique about our organization is that we launched as a youth-led, local grassroots campaign. Because of this, we are able to be incredibly nimble and fast-acting with our approach to deploying funds raised. On top of that, we are completely volunteer-based and very transparent that 100 percent of every dollar donated (minus transaction fees) goes directly to our restaurant partners and, ultimately, to our front-line workers in the form of meals.”

Most of the work of the FTFL team happens from their homes, but they have joined in a few deliveries. They also regularly speak with restaurant partners and meal recipients.

“We’ve had restaurant owners on the phone almost in tears because they might not be able to pay next month’s rent, and we’ve heard from healthcare workers who are incredibly gracious and feel very supported by their community right now,” Brunner said. “It makes me emotional to think about … it’s really special.”

Alumni at Sullivan Foundation partner school University of Kentucky have founded their own chapter of Feed the Front Line. Read more about their organization here.

This story has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Davidson College website.


UVA Faculty, Alumni Leading Effort to Combat Food Insecurity During Pandemic

By Caroline Newman

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately one in six people in the Charlottesville/Albemarle, Virginia region faced food insecurity, unable to consistently access and afford healthy food.

Local leaders say the pandemic, which has led to a sharp increase in unemployment claims across the commonwealth and the country, is exacerbating existing problems, especially where systemic issues already existed.

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“Nonprofits and grassroots groups in our network have seen an increase in demand for services while they have also had to pivot to helping people shelter in place, often relying on volunteers and facing supply shortages,” Brooke Ray said. “Many of our community members were already struggling and are now facing even more acute concerns and, with new unemployment issues, others are emerging in need of support.”

An array of community organizations and leaders are working as hard as they can to help – many of them from Sullivan Foundation partner school the University of Virginia (UVA).

Ray, for example, is a member of the planning team for Cultivate Charlottesville’s Food Justice Network, a collective of more than 35 community organizations that have been working for racial equity, health and food security in Charlottesville. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the network is coordinating resources and partners to help ensure people who need food and resources most can continue to access them.

Ray is also the operations manager at the Global Policy Center in UVA’s Frank Batten School for Leadership and Public Policy, which, along with University organizations like the UVA Equity Center, is providing logistical and financial support to the Food Justice Network and other community groups, as well as elevating their message to university leaders.

Rosa Key, a member of the Cultivate Charlottesville advocate team, hands out pre-packaged produce in the Westhaven community, part of a weekly food distribution. (Photo courtesy Cultivate Charlottesville)

Together, those organizations are meeting critical needs. The Loaves & Fishes food pantry, for example, offers much-needed groceries to families and individuals. City Schoolyard Garden, which partners with Charlottesville City Schools to teach gardening and nutrition skills, is now coordinating meal donations for students who rely on school lunches for regular meals. The PB&J Fund is providing more than 300 bagged meals each Friday to families, in partnership with Charlottesville City Schools. Local Food Hub, a nonprofit that partners with local farmers, is working to get fresh, locally grown produce into more neighborhoods, supporting farmers and residents at the same time.

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“There is a lot of great work going on right now, with a lot of different organizations pitching in,” Food Justice Network Program Director Shantell Bingham said. “My job is to check in with those organizations, and coordinate efforts and connect people so that we have the consistent impact we want to see, especially in the communities that need it most.”

Bingham, who earned both her undergraduate and Master of Public Health degree at UVA, has been working on food security issues in Charlottesville since she was an undergraduate, when she started a “Growing for Change” project partnering with public housing residents to build and plant gardens. That organization is now part of the Food Justice Network.

Right now, Bingham and other community leaders are particularly focused on making sure that pandemic-related relief efforts are equitable, reaching communities across Charlottesville and particularly those who are most vulnerable to the pandemic or underrepresented in other areas.

“Food insecurity was a persistent issue in Charlottesville before the pandemic, and the inequities we see in our food system are also very present in education, housing and economic wealth gaps, often founded in race or socioeconomic status,” Bingham said. “These are not new issues in Charlottesville and, as always, it is important to think about who controls resources, how they are distributed, and how nonprofits and leaders can share those resources in a way that fits what the community actually needs.”

The biggest part of that, Bingham said, is getting community members involved at every stage – something the Food Justice Network has prioritized for years.

“We have to set up programs that are driven by community members, and to get people who are living these issues day in and day out at the table, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Bingham said. “We want to talk with people about what best meets their needs, and how we can set up food delivery, for example, to meet those needs.”

Volunteers and partners from the Food Justice Network, City Schoolyard Garden, the Salvation Army, Pearl Island and the Batten School prepared spring break meals for Charlottesville students. (Photo: Aleen Carey)

As part of that work, Bingham serves as a community director and local steering committee member at the UVA Equity Center, where she works with other local leaders, Equity Center staff and UVA faculty members to help identify concerns and coordinate responses.

“Our local partners are well-organized and dedicated, but COVID-19 has greatly increased the load they have to tackle,” Equity Center executive director Ben Allen said. “At the Equity Center, we can help to elevate their concerns, talk to University leaders and groups around UVA and in the community and identify areas that need support.”

The center employees a grant writer who is helping local organizations apply for pandemic-related grants and other funding. Staff members are also helping track food routes across the community, identifying which organizations are providing food and where it is going.

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“That helps us see which areas of the community are not getting the food they need,” Allen said. “We want to keep that going and grow that working, during and after the pandemic, to keep giving families the support they need.”

It’s a mission that the Food Justice Network and the organizations it supports have been focused on for a long time – and one they will continue to pursue long after this pandemic. That is why, Ray said, supporting those organizations and mutual aid efforts is so important, and why the Global Policy Center is dedicating her time, plus that of two research assistants, to focus on this response.

“These organizations have been doing this work for a long time, and they are going to be here long after this response is over,” Ray said. “We want to invest in them, make sure they remain viable and able to support the community, and pursue much needed systems change in addition to critical emergency response work.”

This article was edited slightly from the original version appearing on the UVA website.