Alumni perspectives amid a pandemic

"COVID-19" written on paper in a typewriter

Across the country—and around the world—nearly every aspect of life has been impacted by the pandemic, including how and where we work and volunteer. Case Western Reserve University alumni have been on the front lines in hospitals, clinics, health departments, social-service agencies and more. But their work in other areas—such as churches, fire stations and funeral homes—also has been greatly impacted. Read just a few of the ways our alumni made a difference in the early weeks of the pandemic, in their communities and beyond.

Continuing care for children

Headshot of Case Western Reserve alumna Annette Iwamoto
     Annette Iwamoto

Just before it temporarily closed in mid-March, Cleveland’s Providence House crisis nursery had 13 young children in its care. “Our social workers quickly worked with families to identify how we could safely discharge each child,” said Annette Iwamoto (SAS ’12), strategic initiatives manager for the nonprofit shelter. Nearly all families were reunited, staying either in their own housing or with others temporarily. Throughout the pandemic, the agency’s social workers have provided support by phone and delivered food, diapers, formula, soap and hand sanitizer so families can avoid taking public transportation to grocery stores. As Providence House prepares to reopen, Iwamoto expects a huge increase in inquiries, as “families who were previously just getting by may find themselves in crisis or struggling to manage the anxiety and stress of caring for young children during the pandemic,” she said. “The onus is on us to determine how we can offer our crisis nursery and other supportive services in as safe a manner as possible to help prevent child abuse and neglect.”

Spiritual support goes virtual 

Sarah Masters Headshot
        Sarah Masters

In the past, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington in Virginia ended its weekly service with a benediction as people held hands or touched the shoulder of a neighbor. “We know that, for some people, that may be the only time they touch another person each week,” said Sarah Masters (MNO ’95), director of congregational life. On March 15, the church closed its doors and moved to online services—and felt the financial impact, as donations from the collection plate fell to about 25 percent of normal levels and it received federal Payroll Protection Program funds to maintain staffing. While congregants miss the communal feeling of in-person services, people who moved away are reconnecting and participating online. About 70 congregants are making weekly check-in calls to other congregant households. And the annual youth-led service became more creative when it was pre-recorded and shown online. “I’ve always said the church is not the building; it is the community,” Masters said. “This experience has illustrated that.”

These stories appeared as part of a larger feature in The Daily on July 23, 2020. The article first appeared in a summer publication related to the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. More articles will appear in The Daily and on the university and school social media accounts in upcoming weeks; visit to see more.