Comets Find Bright Way To Help During Pandemic with Senior Care Packages

UT Dallas students Anuj Gupta and Shreena Bhatt, both board members with COVID Check-In, prepare to deliver care packages for seniors in assisted living communities. (Photo courtesy of UT Dallas student Charmi Modi)

Five students from The University of Texas at Dallas have taken the initiative to help brighten the day for residents of assisted living communities who have been isolated during the long haul of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Neuroscience junior Anuj Gupta and sophomore Charmi Modi along with a handful of their friends wanted to help others while being quarantined at home themselves. After brainstorming ideas, they decided to reach out to local senior citizens with care packages and handwritten notes.

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Comets are stepping up to make an impact in the fight against COVID-19. Read their stories on the University Outreach webpage.

“I was driven by the mental health aspect. It’s so hard for these residents to get that social connection,” said Modi, who grew up living with her grandparents in the family home. “When the group made their first delivery, they saw relatives standing outside the windows at these facilities, It’s really heartbreaking.”

Their volunteer effort, called COVID Check-In, has distributed more than 700 care packages to senior living communities in Collin County. Through a GoFundMe account, they hope to raise money to provide packages to as many senior living communities as possible in North Texas. So far, they’ve raised more than $3,000 toward their $5,000 goal.

“A lot of the facilities have now started contacting us,” said Gupta, who has been a hospice volunteer. “It’s really good for these communities, too, because they don’t have many volunteers coming in these days.”

“We wanted to spread happiness, love and support. We want them to know they’re not forgotten.”

Charmi Modi, a neuroscience sophomore who is part of the COVID Check-In volunteer effort

The group’s organizers include UT Dallas neuroscience junior Kareena Chawla, healthcare management senior Shreena Bhatt and finance sophomore Aritra Baidya, as well as Amisha Kumar, a friend who attends Texas Tech University.

Word spread through the group’s Instagram and Facebook pages, and the project has drawn about 50 volunteers from campus and the community. Organizers say it’s a way to make a difference while staying socially distanced.

“We are all on our own. During a quarantine, it’s hard to volunteer. A lot of students wanted to help but didn’t know how,” Modi said.

Dr. Michael Motes, special research associate in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, has observed Modi’s competency in the neuroscience lab and said she “also has shown considerable empathy and concern for others.”

“It is heartwarming and inspiring to see Charmi and her friends set aside their own fears during this pandemic and reach out to senior citizens. It is so thoughtful of them to recognize the isolation these seniors are experiencing and to organize efforts to enrich the lives of these vulnerable people,” Motes said.

COVID Check-In volunteers collect donations and assemble the care packages filled with decks of cards, coloring and puzzle books, and assorted sweet and savory snacks. Then they tuck in handwritten notes from children and adults to encourage the residents.

Volunteers are careful to sanitize the tables they use to gather donations, and they leave assembled packages undisturbed for 72 hours before delivering them to senior care homes. Since visitors aren’t allowed inside, facility staff distribute the packages to residents and even take photos of seniors when they open them.

“Our goal is for these seniors to feel the compassion we have for them and to feel cared for in the midst of the pandemic,” Gupta said.

And Modi said it’s been rewarding to see photos and videos of them opening their packages.

“We wanted to spread happiness, love and support. We want them to know they’re not forgotten,” she said.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

Tagged: BBS COVID-19 SOM