Remote Service Becomes the ‘New Normal’ For Now


Zach Sternberg ('22)

STANWICH ROAD/REMOTE – Need doesn’t understand stay-at-home rules.

With joblessness rising there is even more to consider for GCDS’s service oriented community.

But finding ways students can meaningfully engage in supporting the community has become a new challenge. Greenwich Country Day School is known for its overwhelming support of non-profits throughout Fairfield county. GCDS student and faculty volunteers have supported organizations such as The Greenwich Land Trust, Neighbor to Neighbor, and Abilis through food drives, fundraisers, and community events. But how do you help out, when you can’t go out?

When the stay at home order came in March, the Center for Public Good shifted gears.  

Austin Lehn and Jen Donnalley, teachers and Center for Public Good coordinators shed some light on how they were going to keep supporting the various non-profits GCDS supports and the new challenges they had to face.

“Programs that bring people together have obviously stopped running, so the ways to help have changed,” Mr. Lehn said in an email interview.  “Dropping a meal to Kids-in-Crisis now involves putting it on a picnic table without seeing anyone; our weekly time with Abilis that many GCDS athletic teams have participated in is now on Zoom; instead of being able to volunteer to help our food-insecure neighbors at Neighbor to Neighbor, you can deliver groceries to those who shouldn’t be going to the grocery store.”  

The list of alternative ways to help didn’t stop.

“Instead of visiting Riverhouse, you can now write a letter or volunteer to perform at one of their Zoom sessions; Inspirica won’t accept a home-cooked meal, but you can purchase one to donate from a local restaurant.” 

Students have come through in ways large and small.

Sofia Urbina, sophomore, spearheaded a letter writing campaign to front-line workers at Stamford Hospital.

“We have students running Zoom sessions with home-bound seniors, playing games like Pictionary with our friends at Abilis, and offering help with technology for people who need to broaden their use in order to adjust to our new world,” Mr. Lehn said.

What happens next is anyone’s guess, but hope is part of the story.

 “Long term, we’re optimistically thinking about returning to pre-COVID normal,” Mr. Lehn explained.  “Our worries there are about providing enough varied service ventures that every student can find a truly meaningful way to engage”

He said everything is on the table for the coming school year. 

Emails with opportunities and other communications will continue flowing to students so they can make their presence known.  

“We’ve been thrilled with how much interest there has been in service projects during this time. Without students’ packed schedules, many have used their extra time to make the world a better place.” 

Zach Sternberg is a rising junior who enjoys playing sports, watching movies, and studying history and computer science.