At this point of the spring, Grace Perechinsky expected to be working with her teammates toward a spot in the Atlantic 10 softball tournament.
Instead, she's spending time doing much more important work – helping people in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Each Wednesday, she heads to her local food pantry – the Bread Basket of Northeast Pennsylvania (NEPA) in Scranton – volunteering to donate food to the needy in her local community.
It isn't something entirely new to the St. Bonaventure junior. In fact, she's volunteered at the food pantry since she was nine years old.
"My grandpa would take me with him after school on Wednesdays when my mom would be working," she said. "Ever since then I've tried to help out anytime I was available. Even after coming to Bonaventure when I would go home for long breaks, I would take time out of my Wednesdays to volunteer."
Those volunteer hours mean something much more now that the Bread Basket food pantry has seen its number of available volunteers drop substantially due to the pandemic.
"Anyone that we can get that's young and healthy helping us out is critical," Bread Basket of NEPA executive director Phoebe Wilson told Scranton TV news station WNEP. "Normally at this particular pantry, there would be 10 people here (volunteering), and now there's three."
Perechinsky helps package bags of food to give to those who come by, often delivering food straight to the cars of community members - many of whom are older and more at risk of devastating effects of the virus.
"I enjoy helping others," she says of her efforts at the food pantry. "I get to be a part of something that helps those in need. It makes me happy to know that I can make even a small difference in someone's life, especially with everything going on right now."
Bread Basket of NEPA supports six food pantries throughout Lackawanna County, giving the work of Perechinsky and her fellow volunteers even greater reach.
She said she and the rest of the volunteers at the food pantry are taking the necessary precautions to keep themselves safe while helping others.
"I'm lucky that I'm young and healthy. I'm making sure to wear gloves and a face mask and we have a policy in that we don't come in contact with clients right now; they drive up and we place the bags in the car," she described. "It helps keep both myself and the client safe and keeps in line with helping to flatten the curve of COVID-19."
Though her third year at St. Bonaventure was cut short this spring, she puts to use the spirit of her Bona community each day she assists those around her. It's nothing new for she and her teammates who band together to send gifts as well as hats and gloves to needy children in orphanages in the U.S. and other countries around the world at Christmastime each year.
"We are all taught that as a Bonnie it's important to help others," she emphasized. "Coach Threehouse (St. Bonaventure's head softball coach) has always taught us the importance of giving back. The St. Bonaventure faculty, staff and alumni all do their part."
She adds that fellow college students can give back to their local communities with even small gestures serving to make big impacts during these tough times.
"Check with your neighbors and offer to pick something up for them at the store if they can't get out. Reach out to your local food banks and see if you can help," she said. "There are so many people that have lost their jobs or have fallen on hard times. If you are healthy and able, be thankful for what you have and consider pitching in to help those in need. The simplest things can make a big difference."
- By Scott Eddy, Assistant Athletic Director for Athletic Communications