As college campuses closed amid the coronavirus pandemic and classes moved online, a group of University of Pennsylvania students found themselves with extra time on their hands.
They wanted to spend that time volunteering, but found it difficult to find opportunities that aligned with their skills.
“There’s this unprecedented level of need in the world surrounding us. There should be a way to match (volunteer opportunities) with what we’re able to do,” said Megan Kyne, a recent graduate of the school who studied business economics and policy.
So she and other students decided to create their own directory to match volunteers with opportunities specific to the pandemic. It began as a Google spreadsheet and has since evolved into the website CoronaConnects.org.
“The whole intention behind the site is to make it as seamless as possible to volunteer,” said Kyne, a founding member who serves as the website’s head of product.
Those interested in volunteering can filter opportunities by interest, location — including whether the work can be done remotely — availability and time commitment.
“When I got home, I was antsy and there was nothing to do. I live with at-risk people, so I couldn’t leave to go out and into the community to volunteer,” said Steve Hamel, another graduate of the University of Pennsylvania who helped moved students from campus when the college closed.
“This helped me. I hope it helps my friends find the best ways to get involved,” said Hamel, a founding member of the site who manages its technical side.
Organizations seeking volunteers can submit their needs via the website, which are reviewed and managed by a team of 25 college students.
“Our hope is to not only be a place for volunteers to seamlessly find opportunities, but to serve as a powerful resource for organizations looking for help,” said Kyne.
Currently, the website has more than 200 volunteer opportunities across 15 states, including a handful in Chicago and the Champaign-Urbana areas. More than 6,000 people have visited the website since its launch in April, and it has connected those visitors with more than 1,800 volunteer opportunities, according to Kyne.