Maryland is under stay-at-home orders, but members of the Maryland Smith community still are finding ways to reach out, while practicing social distancing.
They’re extending a virtual hand to UMD students, schoolchildren in neighborhoods, and medical professionals who are caring for COVID-19 patients.
Carol Cron, manager of the marketing department at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, began by making lunches for children in need when schools were ordered to close. She knew that for many children, the free school lunch is the primary – or only – meal they can depend on each day.
She teamed up with a neighbor, who also works at UMD and who organized the meal-preparation efforts for about two weeks, to cook a hot lunch for about 50 local schoolchildren who rely on the school lunch program.
It was one way that she could give back, she said. Another was by donating to the university’s Student Crisis Fund. The Student Crisis Fund provides assistance to any UMD student who faces an unforeseen emergency financial need. Due to the pandemic, the fund has been depleting quickly.
“Ever since the shutdown, they have gotten so many more requests,” she said.
She read in Maryland Today about the rush of student financial requests in late March. Students who had lost much-needed part-time jobs when restaurants or other employers shut their doors were suddenly wondering how they’d pay the bills. The crisis fund was inundated, at one point receiving 231 requests in a single day – many times the daily average.
“I responded with a contribution a few times,” she said.
When Ruth Hakulin, office manager of the Office of Development and Alumni Relations at Maryland Smith, was searching for a way to help, she turned to her sewing machine. She responded to an early need for face masks for healthcare workers, initially sewing more than 200 masks.
Hakulin works as a professional crafter when not on campus, attending trade shows with her side business, Ruthcreates.com.
“The first Monday of spring break I put out a post on Facebook,” she said. “The next day, the orders started coming and they haven’t stopped.”
Hakulin says there are always ways to help out in times of need. “The best advice I can give is to use your creativity,” she said. “Listen to what people say they need, and see if there’s any way you can do that for them.”