It was a grandmother and her two granddaughters, ages 4 and 6, who showed Kerry Mills, MBU Online advisor and assistant professor of art history, the meaning behind her simple act of kindness.
Where she lives in Richmond, Mills is volunteering to help deliver meals to people impacted by the coronavirus crisis, and this family greeted her with a handmade thank-you sign and gratitude from the heart.
“The girls were so excited and then proceeded to tell me how they liked my outfit,” said Mills. “You have got to love fashion kudos during a pandemic. They made my day.”
Her deliveries are part of an outreach effort through the Underground Kitchen — a collective of chefs who usually put on themed pop-up dinners — to distribute free soup, bread, and tea three times a week to community members in need, including those who are homebound, emergency and healthcare professionals who are working long shifts, and people in temporary residence while their family members undergo hospital treatment. Suppliers provide the food for chefs to make in local church kitchens around Richmond.
Twice a week, Mills makes deliveries to about 12 residences in the East End of Richmond, while practicing social distancing and wearing a mask. The Underground Kitchen as a whole is facilitating cooking and delivering 2,000-plus meals a week.
“Good food is something I am passionate about and food insecurity has always been an important issue for me,” Mills said. “With the pandemic, more people — whether shut in at home, at work in a hospital, or on a limited budget due to job loss — are facing issues of access to a nutritious meal, so this seemed like a project I could get behind.”
From delivering food to assisting areas of the community hard hit by the pandemic, here are some additional members of the MBU family who are devoting time to giving back:
- Fouzia Ishtiaq, a student through MBU Online, has coordinated volunteers to help cook and provide meals to the elderly through her own non-profit organization. She has also checked on elderly neighbors over the phone to see how they’re doing.
- Josh Smith, another student through MBU Online, opened a daycare for the children of first responders and healthcare professionals in Henrico County.
- While the Staunton Farmers’ Market was closed, Lindsey Walsh, assistant director of the Vantage Point, helped create a food map to support local farmers.
- Cadets in the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership have contributed in their home communities by delivering groceries to elderly and disabled neighbors, driving vegetables from farms to peoples’ homes, and participating in crowdsourced data processing and protein research with the hope of speeding up the process toward a COVID-19 vaccine.
- Faculty members Ralph Cohen and Allan Moye helped the American Shakespeare Center (ASC) with their first-ever livestream of a full performance, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in March. The ASC has gone on to produce a slate of streaming performances that have drawn national attention and helped with fundraising efforts.