Recognizing the challenges wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, six friends took the opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade— working together to help community members in need.
According to Tatnall student Hannah Morgan ’23, the effort was inspired by a news report that Heather Cox, mother of fellow classmates Evan Cox ’22 and Conrad Cox ’23, had seen.
“When Ms. Cox saw an interview with the founder of Pandemic of Love (POL), she thought it would be a good idea to start a local chapter,” says Hannah, who was part of the POL Delaware organizational and development team. “She presented the idea to us, and we liked it. Several of us had family and friends directly affected by COVID. We weren’t able to volunteer outside our homes at the time due to restrictions, so this was a good way to get involved.”
First launched in Florida, POL is a grassroots, volunteer-led organization that helps people affected by income loss during the pandemic. As time went on, POL’s mission expanded as chapters were formed and different needs were identified within communities around the country.
In October 2020, Hannah, Evan, and Conrad came together with classmate Graham Nourie ’23 and Tatnall-affiliated students Max Moen and Kendall Massey, through weekly Zoom meetings to start the Delaware Chapter of POL, a mutual-aid organization that matches recipients in need with donors who want to help.
With guidance from their parents, the six teens created the chapter from the ground up. In the process, they learned about non-profit organizations, setting meeting agendas, building a website, creating social media accounts, doing marketing, branding, and networking, and managing the projects they created. All the while, keeping their focus on giving back to their community.
“I found it very fulfilling to be involved,” says Graham, who created the website and Instagram account for POL DE. “It was a great way to help others while working together with my friends and their families. We also got good experience running an organization, which is something we can use as we get older.”
“It was good to see friends I hadn’t seen in a while and do something to help our community,” says Conrad, who helped organize and match donors and recipients. “Now I have a better idea what it’s like to start something from nothing.”
Since its inception, POL DE has provided relief to those in need in a variety of ways, such as providing financial relief to a single mom and her two children so they could pay their rent, remain in their apartment, and purchase clothing. They also connected a young woman with legal and educational resources so she could buy a car, find a job, and graduate from high school.
“My mom and I went clothes shopping for someone evicted from their home,” shares Graham.
“There was a group of kids we helped in the foster care system,” adds Hannah. “They were so appreciative and sent us thank you notes afterward. It was heartwarming.”
The group also did a large holiday project where the teens reached out to area high schools and matched donors with children in need to fulfill their holiday wish lists.
“We helped around 30 kids through the holiday drive,” says Conrad. “It was my job to match donors, most of whom were Tatnall families and friends, with recipients.”
“I’m really proud of the kids,” says Heather. “Creating the chapter and managing the projects was a big undertaking and they really rose to the challenge. It was also eye-opening for them to see that a gift card to a fast-food restaurant was considered a luxury item by some of the kids in need. And the response of the Tatnall community was awesome. We had so many donors we had to reach out to other high schools to find more kids to help!”
As the pandemic winds down, the students involved with POL DE are finding more of their time focused on regular high school activities, but they contend that the chapter will continue in some capacity.
“We are a smaller chapter anyway,” says Hannah. “I think it will continue but not to the same extent. We plan to continue our relationship with other schools and helping students in need.”
“Yes, the holiday project worked really well,” says Conrad. “It wasn’t complicated, and we were able to get a lot done quickly. I imagine we’ll continue with projects like that.”
“The kids have also been brainstorming about reaching out to schools where food insecurity is an issue and possibly providing Friday backpacks of food to students,” adds Heather. “Another idea is to help with school supplies for those in need come September.”