Alumni respond to pandemic in work, communities
We recently reached out to our alumni to get their perspectives about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their work. Here, we hear from six alumni working in a broad spectrum of fields, about how life has changed over the past few months and how they have responded.
Julia (Lachowski) Palombi, ’16, is a social worker in the emergency department / observation unit at Grant Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio.
“I have had the privilege of observing my colleagues tackle the COVID-19 pandemic calmly and proactively. As policies and procedures change daily and almost hourly, my colleagues have adjusted with grace and determination and I am very proud of them. As a social worker I often work with very vulnerable populations and these people are at greater risk during this time. Many people have had a harder time paying for food or bills, accessing healthcare, and many homeless have had a harder time obtaining food or shelter due to the virus. We have had to come up with safe solutions as quickly as we can to protect our patients and our community. Our patients, families, and community have also been very understanding and kind during this time and we appreciate it more than we can say.”
Corie Steinke, ’09, is the director of Student Involvement of Goshen College in northern Indiana.
“I have had to coach students and staff through the adjustment of classes moving to online models, watching end-of-year celebrations change, moving all of our residential students out of the residence halls with a few days’ notice, and supporting students through the financial, academic and social challenges the coronavirus has presented. My team focused largely on how to keep students motivated to finish the semester strong academically and stay in touch with each other socially. It's hard knowing there were so many of my students who were on a great track or improving now struggling, and how many of my students who were already struggling end up in a worse place. We're now in conversation, like many colleges and universities, in planning how we are going to reopen in the fall while being as "normal" as possible. It's hard to feel like you're thinking of every possible scenario for every possible student, and it's hard to strike a balance between keeping students, staff, and faculty as safe and healthy as possible and maintaining a liberal arts philosophy on a residential campus. What has been great about this experience is the communal agreement that no one really has a template, so we're willing to think and dream big. It's been easy to think "Yes, and..." in order to make anything happen for our students. It's been an incredible time to be innovative and creative, even if that means we can't be in person with each other. It really forces us to put our feet to the fire to do anything for our students and for our community.”
Penelope Yunghans, ’68, supported her Shinglehouse, Pennsylvania, community with book donations.
“I have a huge collection of books – books I have read, books waiting to be read, books I know I’ll never get around to reading. When our town library had to close, I packed some books into crates and took them to our local grocery store, where the manager allowed me to set up a free “library” of books for adults and children. I know it’s appreciated, because I have to take more books at least every other day to restock.”
Dan Higgins, ’93 and ’95 MAC, is the owner and clinical director of Cornerstone Counseling in Bellevue, Ohio.
“I have been incredibly proud of and blessed by my amazing team of clinicians at Cornerstone Counseling who literally transitioned over a weekend to a 100% online, telehealth agency. Several of our therapists are ‘Berg MAC grads including Carolyn Wenner, Jackie White, Lisa Freriks and myself. In total, our team of 10 clinicians quickly learned the power of Zoom and integrated our clinical expertise into a different treatment platform. The response from the hundreds of clients we serve has been spectacular. They are relieved to know they can receive services and thankful to see familiar faces. These are stressful times, for sure, but made less so by our ability to connect in new and engaging ways. I'm so thankful for my years at Heidelberg, which helped me learn to think outside of the box and adapt quickly when faced with change. In my opinion, this is where a solid liberal arts education hits a home run!”
Joshua Hinkel, ’15, is a member of the Housing Team with Community Legal Aid and lives in Wooster, Ohio.
“Part of the reason I joined Community Legal Aid after law school was to make a difference in Ohio and more specifically, where I grew up. While the coronavirus has paused a lot of the world, it has not paused many legal issues. While many courts have continued cases, there is still plenty of work to do, especially in terms of housing. As a member of the housing team, I have primarily had to deal with a lot of conditions issues in apartments. A fair number of landlords have started to use this pandemic as an excuse to not do any repairs. In some instances, the conditions are severely affecting the health and safety of the tenants. As part of the housing team, we are working on initiatives to launch in our service area to try to prevent as many evictions as possible. We have had clients already contacting for help because their landlords have already informed them that once the local court allows for evictions to begin again that they will file for an eviction.
Note: Josh is completing bankruptcy training and working on being admitted to the federal bar to be able to help people file for bankruptcy to avoid consequences arising out of the pandemic.
Sarah (Hess) Key, ’06, is a preschool teacher in Fairborn, Ohio, who lives in Beavercreek.
As her 13 preschool children had to finish their school year at home, Sarah came up with a creative way to host individual “graduation” visits for each one of them. With the help of a professional photographer, each student had a personal graduation moment that was captured for their families. Sarah’s effort caught the eye of Good Morning, America, which aired the story in mid-May.