South charity clubs inspire positivity, selflessness in members during pandemic


Altruistic Artists: Socially distanced, Interact members participate in their yearly Paint-A-Thon. Both Interact and Key Club have found safe ways to help out in their community during the pandemic. Photo courtesy of Grace Cullum.

Sarah Al-Jawhar and Justine Liu

Bright and early before school starts, South service members eagerly hop out of bed to join Zoom calls for their 7:30 a.m. club meetings. Like all clubs at South, Key Club and Interact, two of South’s biggest community service clubs, have faced their own challenges with the pandemic. From willingly joining additional Zoom meetings to dedicating time to events that look slightly different this year, each member’s passion for doing service is as apparent as ever, according to Jessica Pritzker, the Key Club sponsor.

Due to the pandemic, Key Club is no longer able to help the homeless with the Night Ministry, spend time with elders in the Little Brothers or work with many other organizations, Pritzker explained. Instead, the club resorts to modified activities that require no in-person interactions. This includes individually packing food and dropping them off at school, doing crafts with special needs students over Zoom, enforcing Covid-19 guidelines at beach cleanups and Wagner Farm events and many more, Pritzker said. 

“Everything is happening, it’s just a little different,” Pritzker said.  “We are still doing a bunch of [events], we just have to rethink them.”

Senior Tessa Logli, a leader on the Key Club administration committee, said she looked forward to the Coffee Club event. She loved spending time with the elders in the retirement center, whether it was playing games or simply talking for hours. Typically, this event was held twice a year, but it was cancelled last year due to Covid-19. 

“I’ve had some of the best conversations I’ve ever had with the people there,” Logli said. “They are really interesting, and it’s fun to hear about their life stories. I get to know things about people I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t go to Coffee Club.”

Similar to Key Club, Interact had to make alterations to their plans to ensure the health and safety of its members. While a few events, such as the blood drives and meals with special needs groups, have been postponed, most of the activities have simply been adjusted to avoid Covid-19 exposure, according to Interact sponsor Mark Gallagher.

One of the major annual events that Interact is able to hold with modifications is Paint-A-Thon, a Habitat for Humanity project, Gallagher said. During this event, the junior and senior members screen elderly candidates of families that are not able to have their homes painted and refurbished.r. 

“This year we had about 50 students (25 each Saturday) convert the home of Mr. Opanmo in Wheeling to a beautiful, new home,” Gallagher said.

The Interact members continue to express their passion for service through their many project events such as Paint-A-Thon. Although many of the activities have been altered, Gallagher explained how Interact continues to serve as an enjoyable and collaborative way for students to help their community.

Despite the many changes, the members of Interact do not fail to remain optimistic, club president senior Grace Cullum stated. Cullum said that the members continue to eagerly participate in Interact’s activities without hesitation and credited their optimism to their passion for helping the community. 

“When you are at an event, it doesn’t feel as different as it may seem,” Cullum said. “When you are doing service, all you can think about is the good things you are doing and not the crazy world that we’re living in.”

 To make sure that everyone is informed and engaged, social media platforms and safe in-person activities have been helpful for the Key Club and Interact leaders, according to Logli and Cullum. 

“What the other admin and I have tried to do is incorporate that aspect of board bonding and a close community with social distancing and being on Zoom,” Logli said. 

Even with all the changes Key Club had to make, Logli said that the members’ firm grasp on the Key Club motto of “service over self” helped facilitate the transition to the virtual environment. 

The act of helping others shapes the characters of service club members and helps them overcome newfound obstacles, according to Pritzker. She emphasized the positivity community service can bring into everyone’s lives, especially under the current circumstances.

“What we do is we teach kids that their time is worth something in itself,” Pritzker said. “Even now, even from a distance, far away from people, you can still make a difference. [We are] just refocusing and directing our energies in a different and new way that nobody was comfortable with in the beginning, and kind of just blossoming within this situation.”