After months of quarantining and over 140,000 deaths in the United States alone, Covid-19 seems to have no end in sight. Whether it is keeping high school seniors from enjoying their spring season or losing a loved one, no one is immune to this virus and its power to change our way of life. One consensus among people is that essential workers, especially those who work in the medical field, have been particularly burdened with responding to this pandemic. Furthermore, the older population is typically more susceptible to the virus. In response to this, Eliana Mlawski ’22, Jessica Choe ’22, and Olivia Crisafi ’22 created the Supplies To Aid Retired Seniors Covid-19 Relief Organization, or STARS for short. STARS is dedicated to providing aid to elderly care centers.
STARS is a self-described “student initiative to help the elderly at risk from Coronavirus and supply PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to care organizations.” This organization is run solely by students. While multiple members of the Governor’s community have been doing what they can to aid their communities, the STARS team has set up a sustainable system of providing aid to those in need. Raising money for the elderly in care centers, donating PPE to care centers, and creating cards for the elderly, STARS is determined to “Save the grandparents!”.
Eliana recognizes that quarantine is very isolating and could cause people, especially those in care centers, to feel lonely. “It’s easy to feel isolated or alone but we can remind people, especially the elderly, we are here for you,” Eliana says. Olivia notes that it is a great way to come together with schoolmates and work on something unrelated to academics. Though it is challenging, she finds it enjoyable to work with friends on something that will truly change the lives of a multitude of people. Recognizing her capability to help others, Jessica says, “We are lucky enough to not be directly affected by the pandemic so we are thankful that we are able to help.”
In a few months of operation, the team has accomplished various tasks. There continues to be a shortage of PPE for medical care workers and care centers. Since early May, they raised $5,846 from 105 donations –enough to purchase 4,800 surgical masks and 5,600 nitrile gloves. With the money raised, they have made this pandemic more manageable for local communities. On a more personal level, the STARS team and various volunteers have been able to sew 300 cloth face masks and have written 300 Brighter Together Letters to senior citizens. All these items were delivered to 18 different care centers.
Olivia believes it is both rewarding and reassuring to find that their work is directly helping those in our area. She recalled a time when the Haverhill Council on Aging Director reported that their residents had been using the same masks for all of quarantine, which is dangerous. The senior center was so thankful when she delivered the PPE because the residents would be able to protect themselves properly during the pandemic. Eliana’s heartwarming moment occurred when Avita of Newbury emailed them with senior citizens holding up their cards with smiles on their faces. Even if it were just one person’s day that was made, she was so happy. Though the distance separates Jessica, and she would love to be able to deliver items herself, she echoes the excitement of their Gofundme hitting $5,000. With each donation leading to the goal, the group was, “… so grateful for all the help and support we got to accomplish this feat.”
Along with their accomplishments, the team has faced some challenges. Scheduling is difficult because of the location of some team members. The team also believes spreading their message has been difficult, however, they would like to say they are very thankful and surprised to see the amount of support the community has given so far. The team just believes there is more potential. The three co-founders are not alone in this journey of service. David Zhao ’22, Bill Chan ’23, and Nancy Xie ’21 all volunteered to help the cause and join the team. The group added Nancy in particular after she started a fundraiser for Chinese hospitals battling Covid-19. She is the team’s artist, using her talents to create things like stickers for the organization.
How can you help save the grandparents? If possible, donate to the Gofundme. All of the money raised goes to purchasing PPE for the staff and residents of care facilities. If you want to get more creative, write some letters. Many of the elderly living in these homes may feel alone, especially with visit limitations. A vibrant card definitely helps lift their spirits. Getting the fundraiser and its message to a wider audience with social media would also help. Finally, if you can sew masks or have any other ideas for pitching in, contact the organization directly and they would love to work with you.
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