Members of the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine community spent part of Monday reaffirming a commitment to serve the community in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

OUWB volunteers in the community on Martin Luther King Jr. Day
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Garrett Peters, M1, (left), Amanda Bachand, M1, (center), and Dana Rector, M3, (right) pack boxes of food at the Taylor warehouse of Gleaners Community Food Bank.

Members of the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine community spent part of Monday reaffirming a commitment to serve the community in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Students, staff, and faculty were at locations in Rochester, Pontiac, and Taylor, volunteering on what is a day off for many to provide much-needed help several area nonprofits.

The organizations were Older Persons’ Commission in Rochester, Baldwin Center in Pontiac, and a distribution center in Taylor for Gleaners Community Food Bank.

“I have volunteered at Gleaners for a long time because it’s always been an organization that’s important to my family,” said Amanda Bachand, M1, a volunteer at Gleaners. “Food insecurity is something that we don’t talk about enough in our communities and I felt like this was a great opportunity to give back on a day of service.”

“I don’t get to really do too much outside of studying and going to clinical rotations,” said Amy Halder, M3, who volunteered at Baldwin Center. “This is a perfect time to just give back.”

Jean Szura, Ph.D., director of Service Learning, said that now more than ever there’s a need for OUWB to be out in the community.

“It’s important for students to feel that camaraderie and it’s also important to remember that we can provide service safely,” said Szura. “Today, was great day to demonstrate that.”

Helping Gleaners address food insecurities

At Gleaners, about 20 OUWB students helped pack boxes of food destined for one of the organization’s community mobile projects. Boxes contained canned fruit and vegetables, soup, rice, peanut butter, and more.

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Ray Leduc, operations manager, said volunteers are vital to the success of Gleaners, which distributed about 71 million pounds of food in 2021.

Leduc said the OUWB students on Monday packed about 11,000 pounds of food, or enough for about 550 households.

“We’re happy to have anybody and everybody that’s willing to come out, especially on Martin Luther King Jr. Day,” he said. “We’re always hurting for volunteers, so it’s definitely important that (OUWB students) came out today. It’s really awesome and appreciated.”

Nicole Lewis, M3, said she feels it’s important for medical students, as future physicians, to volunteer.

“A bigger part of our job is serving communities in whatever ways we can,” she said. “Feeding people who are dealing with food insecurity, especially during the pandemic, is making a big difference.”

Garrett Peters, M1, said he didn’t view Monday as a day off.

“Today is a good day for getting out in the community,” he said. “Since we don’t have school, I thought volunteering would be a good way to spend my day and make a difference.”

Dana Rector, M3, said she loves volunteering whenever she can.

“I really enjoy volunteering but as a third-year (medical student), it’s kind of hard to find time,” she said. “It’s really nice having this extra day to spend time like this.”

Providing breakfast via Baldwin Center

Baldwin Center, located near downtown Pontiac, is another of OUWB’s more than 60 community partners.

The center provides food, clothing, youth services, and more to people with needs, including those who are homeless.

On Monday, volunteers from OUWB were among those helping prepare 200 hot breakfast meals for delivery.

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OUWB students prepare breakfast at Baldwin Center on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 17, 2022.  

Skylar Sundquist, M1, was among them because she said she “really loves volunteering.”

Among the reasons, she said, is that it’s a great way for those going into medicine to send the message that they “really do care about the community.”

“And one way to do so is show up and be part of things like this,” she said.

Dominic Tomasi, M1, shared a similar sentiment.

“I just really wanted to get active in the community and help out in any way that I could,” he said.

Suhani Gupta, M1, said “getting to understand the needs of the people around us is so important."

"Service is such an important aspect of being a physician to really understand the community you are serving and a part of,” said.

Gupta said Martin Luther King Jr. Day offers a “perfect way” to get involved.

“It’s everyone’s responsibility to get out and serve others,” she said.

Delivering meals to homebound seniors with OPC

The Older Persons’ Commission’s Meals on Wheels program provides meals for seniors who are older than 60 and unable to grocery shop and, or prepare nutritious meals for themselves. In 2019, the OPC prepared, served, and delivered 84,861 meals.

Today, Chris Coulter, volunteer coordinator, Meals on Wheels for the OPC happily explained to the M1 and M2 students her food delivery process before handing over their routes. Armed with hot and cold food coolers, the students loaded up their cars along with the addresses of the homebound residents they were to visit across Oakland County. The students delivered the meals in pairs, making eight to nine stops along their route.

“I hope it’s a rewarding experience for them and that it contributes to their learning,” said Coulter, who enjoyed the positive feedback she received from the students when they returned with their empty coolers.

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Chris Coulter, volunteer coordinator, Meals on Wheels for the OPC, explains the Meals on Wheels process to M1s Emily Babcock and Erin Mueller.

M2s Chandler Ray, and Emily Schneider, signed up to their deliver meals together. Both said that they were grateful to participate.

“Having the day here is really meaningful and ultimately what is at the core for us and what we want to do,” said Schneider.

Added Ray, “This was a genuine interaction which connected us with people. It was a reminder of the value of this work.”

Emily Babcock, M1, appreciated that OUWB built in protected time for her to have this day to serve in the community.

“We’re so focused on the clinical side and learning about the diseases in class, this day reminds me that there’s more than just the medicine side,” said Babcock.

For Oyin Akenpelu, M2, the day provided useful patient insight.

“Visiting their homes helps us picture our patients in their day-to-day life; see them outside of the patient setting,” she said.

While it was a day when students returned to familiar territory, it was also a day of firsts.

In their family vehicle, Szura and her husband introduced their seven-year-old twin boys to their first day of giving.

“The boys are learning about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in school so they are beginning to understand so we were able to tie that into a lesson about volunteerism. We felt it was time they learned about giving back,” she said.

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