Community Service During Quarantine

Allison Loudenback, Reporter

During this time of our lives, quarantine has left many people yearning for productivity, including senior Emily He, who chose to take initiative and founded a volunteer organization called COVID-19/Crisis Response Teens (CRET), created to provide support to vulnerable groups during the pandemic. 

After observing a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) at the beginning of the pandemic, He originally began volunteering with a larger group of adults. However, she and a few other teens in the group later created their own organization after feeling that there were ways to engage more resources.

The group started off by simply donating masks, but later progressed to fundraising and gathering materials such as cloth, thread, and elastic bands. As the group expanded their goals, they moved from supporting medical staff to also helping veterans and the homeless.

“STL CRET’s mission is to support kids and their families to positively respond and adjust to rapidly changing global and local crises,” He said.

Not only is CRET devoted to helping others stay safe, but they have also made sure to keep themselves safe, operating while abiding by all COVID restrictions.

While many restrictions in St. Louis County have been slightly lifted as time passes, many strict guidelines have remained in place, such as the use of effective face coverings and practicing social distancing while avoiding large social gatherings.

“Each member of STL CRET works separately when making face masks and all cloth is washed to ensure cleanliness,” He said. “ The masks are packed in Ziplock bags and when delivered, every member wears a mask and does not enter the building that e are delivering to; we call the establishment beforehand to let them know we are donating, and one or a couple individuals come out to collect the masks.”

Since its establishment, STL CRET has branched out to work with other service groups, many of which are student-led.

“We worked with other peer groups, such as ProjectMasked and the Giving Hope Project; we expanded our reach to California and Washington and are now…participating in Operation Christmas Child,” He said. 

Thanks to He’s organization and many others similar to CRET, the need for PPE has recently slowed. However, the lowering demand for equipment does not lessen the group’s determination, and He has stated their plans to work with other local service projects within the community in order to provide as much support as possible.

“We are looking towards other things we can do, including a recent food drive we conducted that is going to the St. Louis Area Foodbank,” He said. “We hope to continue giving back to the community in whatever way we can; we are always ready to face another unexpected crisis.”

In the process of planning several projects for the future, He expresses her appreciation for community service and describes it as an entirely positive experience. 

“Volunteering during quarantine has not only given me something to focus on…but it has also led us to feel a sense of accomplishment and gratification in seeing us helping those who need it the most,” He said.