St. Luke’s Provides Virtual Service Opportunities


St. Luke's Society

St. Luke’s Society is the oldest club dedicated to community service on campus, offering several different local and all-school community service events and fundraisers every year.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Luke’s Society has adapted and added new virtual service opportunities. While regularly scheduled events and fundraisers such as the Color Run and the Red Cross Blood Drive have been cancelled, the club is trying to replicate the spirit of some of these events virtually.

Since the beginning of distance learning, St. Luke’s has organized board meetings to discuss the logistics of virtual service and to plan smaller service opportunities that can be managed online. Mrs. Caroline Burchfield, St. Luke’s faculty advisor, said, “We wanted to start small to make sure the remote programs we were setting up actually worked…and then after that we hope to open it up to more kids.”

The club is providing a number of student-led classes and tutoring sessions for Salisbury Central School students through the school’s enrichment program: Seek, Originate, Aspire, Reach (SOAR). These classes include baking, studying a language, exercise, and debate. 

St. Luke’s is also offering a pen pal program with Noble Horizons, a local retirement community. The residents of Noble Horizons have been in quarantine since March 9. Due to their limited knowledge of technology, they have had minimal contact with their families and friends. To help relieve the residents’ feelings of isolation, St. Luke’s paired students up with residents to write letters back and forth to each other. Mrs. Burchfield said, “Students have been incredible about staying in touch and offering to write letters, even if the residents aren’t capable of writing back.” 

Madeline Chang ’22 said, “Right now, we’re always in the same place doing the same things over and over again, but writing out letter[s]… telling my pen pal about… my week [and] all of the best parts of it… [is] a really great way for me to find all of the bright things in my week. It makes the times easier when you are able to find the silver linings.”

Additionally, St. Luke’s has adjusted its international reading hour program to be held online. Previously, students would share stories and crafts relating to their culture each month at a local library; Mahmood Almadeh ’20, Yuka Masumura ’21, Lavina Ngo ’21, and Stella Ren ’22, and each presented their own international reading hours before spring break. Since online school began, Mehar Bhasin ’23 and the heads of Des Colores have hosted reading hour virtual sessions. 

Moreover, St. Luke’s recently adapted the Polar Plunge service event for the Jane Lloyd Fund, a Northwest Connecticut nonprofit dedicated to supporting local cancer patients in need of financial assistance. Board members each recorded a short video of themselves doing the Polar Plunge, and posted it on their Instagram story, nominating their friends to do the same. Additionally, St. Luke’s sent out a link to the Virtual Polar Plunge’s donation page, encouraging students to contribute.

In the transition to virtual community service, St. Luke’s has faced many challenges. Unlike service groups that provide support around the world, St. Luke’s focuses on the local community, so students’ absence from campus and the sudden switch to virtual service has made it difficult or impossible to continue service for local communities. Mrs. Burchfield reached out to many organizations with whom St. Luke’s has worked in the past to see if they are comfortable using Zoom as a tool to continue service. 

However, liability issues related to using remote services like Zoom have slowed down the process of offering more programs. In order to protect students, Mrs. Burchfield worked with the school’s lawyers to create a permission form that will allow students to consent to using Zoom to offer online programs.

In addition, due to limited all-school communication such as all-school announcements and regular open meetings, outreach has become more difficult for St. Luke’s. Club heads have to rely on their email list, Instagram account, and the “Maria” Student Intranet to broadcast service opportunities to the school community. Before the beginning of online schooling, the club relied mostly on open meetings and all-school announcements. Amelia Wang ’21, St. Luke’s co-head, said, “A big challenge that we’ve had to overcome is finding ways to encourage students to continue giving back and participating in service in ways that are less traditional.”

Students interested in contributing to these initiatives can contact Wang and Anne Seaman ’20. Mrs. Burchfield said, “The spirit and eagerness to serve in whatever capacity we can is still really strong and I’m inspired by the commitment of students to do everything they can to make a difference and contribute.”