Virtual Volunteering: What You Need to Know


Sydney Leahy, Editor

For years, Chamblee has been home to volunteer organizations devoted to going out into the world and serving the community. But with the advent of Covid-19, how are these groups adapting to this new virtual world?

Whether students joined because of their burning passion to help others, or because it looks good on college resumes, meeting the assigned number of hours or points is crucial. However, the massive upheaval of their normal volunteering opportunities has forced them to adjust the requirements for their members.

“[…]This semester rather than being fifteen, it’s down to five[hours],” said Beta Club sponsor Kathryn Zuehlke. “And if for whatever reason students are not able to meet five they can make them up next semester. We’re not going to impose the penalty hours like we normally would.”

According to their Facebook page, National Honors Society(NHS) will be expecting ten hours, with up to seven summer hours.

“There will be no penalty hours this year, everybody will start at a clean slate, since things last year got a little upended,” said NHS sponsor Holly Isserstedt.

Interact, using a system of points instead of hours, will also be more flexible with their requirements, focusing instead on the effort that students are putting in.

“I don’t think we’ve actually created a specific number,” said Interact advisor Jennifer Andriano. “I think it’s going to be more about how many times you try to volunteer during what we can offer.”

As for events, the leaders of each school organization will be posting on their respective Facebook pages. Finding volunteering opportunities will be a challenge, but some groups have already begun to adapt.

“[We are] trying to pair with libraries or elementary school teachers or elementary school kids, so that they can either read to little kids or have little kids read to them via meetings like this[Zoom],” said Zuehlke. “I think even letter writing to senior citizens[is an option]. We are still trying to do some kind of volunteering, people need us. But we also want to make sure that students don’t feel pressured, that they’re not going to be kicked out of Beta Club because they or their families don’t want them going out in the environment.”

NHS plans on working with food banks, but expects more opportunities to become available as the year progresses. 

“We are trying to do some things with food distribution and delivery of food,” said Isserstedt. “I know we’ve had a couple of opportunities for that, and I think the more that we let the community know that we have volunteers available that are willing to go out, while keeping social distanced, we’ll have more opportunities present themselves during this semester.”

Interact officers have tried to set up volunteer opportunities, but none so far have been completely virtual. 

“I know the officers are desperately looking for truly virtual experiences,” said Andriano. 

Another topic of interest is dues; and whether or not they will be collected.

“You know, I’m not really sure[if we will collect dues],” said Isserstedt. “It’s just gonna depend on whether or not we think an initiation is doable. […] We do some things for graduation, we give stoles and all of that, but it may be at a reduced fee this year. It will just depend on whether or not we go back to a face to face classroom experience.”

Beta Club has decided not to collect dues this fall because the majority of last year’s dues were not spent.

“We are not collecting dues, because we didn’t spend anybody’s dues last year,” said Zuehlke. “When we get new members in the spring we’ll probably have to collect something from them to pay for the national membership. […] At this point we’re not taking dues this fall. There’s no reason to because we didn’t buy t-shirts and we didn’t have an induction ceremony with food and we didn’t buy pine straw, so a lot of our bigger ticket budget items we haven’t bought.”

Interact, like NHS, is holding off on an official decision until they know whether or not they will return to in-person activities.

Mrs. Andriano said, “If we go back in person, I think so. Like I said, normally they’re twenty, maybe we’ll go down to fifteen or ten depending on how much the t-shirts cost. […] But we may just give the kids an option, if you don’t want a t-shirt, you don’t have to pay the dues.”

Currently, all of the organizations plan on hosting elections online this year.

“Elections will be held this year,” said Isserstedt. “We did them virtually last year, so yes we will still have elections […]. Essentially, we will probably do some kind of a video opportunity for people who would like to run for offices.” 

Those planning on running for office in Beta Club can expect to campaign over Zoom.

“We need to have elections, because our officers are going to graduate,” said Zuehlke. “If they do them virtually we would Zoom and then probably [use] some kind of a Google Doc or Google form, which is what we did last year.”

Although its elections won’t take place until spring, Interact is already preparing to have them online.

“We usually elect in the spring, so hopefully, if we are back on track then we’ll do that,” said Andriano. “If not we’ll probably do like we did this year. All the candidates made a short video introducing themselves, and we put it in the Facebook group and then we did an online poll and counted votes that way.”

All three organizations are preparing for a virtual recruitment process. NHS, being an invite-only organization, expects to send out their application in March. 

“We probably will do a distribution to a student email, because those are fairly protected, and everybody has an individual’s number, so that would probably be the way that they would be distributed,” said Isserstedt. “And the letters for the invitation, that’s something we could easily do virtually.”

This is nothing new for Beta Club, as their application was already virtual last year.

“That’s going to be in January, just like last time, and it was digital last spring,” said Zuehlke. “The application form was a Google Doc, and then for teacher recommendations, they gave me the teacher email, I emailed the teachers, and the teachers emailed me the filled out form to recommend them. The only thing that was not electronic was the parent signature, and I’m sure there’s got to be an easy way to do Docusign or something so that we can get the parents to do that too.”

Interact’s application will be posted on their Facebook page. 

“So, new members are […] going to go to the Facebook page,” said Andriano. “Normally we have a form that they fill out and hand in with their dues, but they are going to be able to just fill out the form with their name, address, phone number, email, things like that. We have a Remind code for freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors, and we send out reminds. It’s just going to be an online form instead and we’re not going to take the dues now.”

Although there are many obstacles ahead of them, Chamblee’s volunteering organizations recognize that their help is needed now more than ever.

“It is what it is,” said Zuehlke. “This is the year of strangeness, and as long as we’re safe and healthy and hopefully employed, or getting benefits so we can eat, things are okay. And for those that are on the edges, [we] try to help out those that we can.”