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Despite pandemic, Carolina Center for Public Service says students can still volunteer

Buckley Service Scholars do outreach at UNC, prior to the campus shutdown. Photo by Angela Chin, courtesy University communications.

For students who volunteer in the community, social distancing in response to COVID-19 can make certain service projects less viable — but the Carolina Center for Public Service is letting them know that serving during the pandemic is still possible. 

The center is offering guidelines for UNC students interested in volunteering during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The center encourages students to both practice social distancing in their communities and offer support remotely through phones or the internet during the pandemic. CCPS also aims to update students through its newsletter. 

“It really is public service to follow the recommended guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” CCPS Director Lynn Blanchard said. “It’s hard to think about sitting at home as public service, but it will make a difference if we all follow those guidelines.” 

Serving remotely may look like donating, spreading public service information or providing organizational services, Blanchard said. 

According to the CCPS website, students can donate money to Carolina Impact Fund to aid UNC students affected by the virus. Additionally, students may donate medical supplies to UNC Health, food to local food pantries or blood at blood banks. 

Service can also involve actions as simple as making a phone call. Blanchard said she recommends making contact with someone who may be isolated during this time. 

For others, such as first-year student A’sja Abron, service can involve influencing policy. 

"Not all service is actually performing the task," Abron, a Buckley Public Service Scholar, said. "A lot of it is planning and policy making. Since direct service isn’t healthy for people around us, focusing on policy or organization would be most beneficial.” 

The Buckley Public Service Scholars program, which is within the Carolina Center for Public Service, is based on "making a positive impact through service," according to its website. 

Blanchard said the center is working with students to ensure that graduation requirements, like service-learning courses, are fulfilled remotely with online trainings for Buckley scholars. 

She also said CCPS is modifying requirements and working with students individually to find alternative options to fulfill their service requirements. 

Liam Murphy, a first-year and Buckley Public Service Scholar, said he is disappointed that he can't complete his service requirements as they were intended. Still, he said he appreciates that they will be available online. 

"As a freshman, I’m lucky I have more time, but for seniors they may not have the time to make the most of your Buckley experience,” Murphy said. 

Abron said Buckley scholars have been told that what counts as service will be more flexible. For example, she said the scholars can document efforts to reach out to the elderly and to communities at risk of COVID-19.  

"Even though it’s not what we thought of as service, it’s what we need right now," Abron said.

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