SPUD Adapts to Service in a Virtual Environment

Jocelyn Buggy ‘22

News Editor

The largest student organization on campus, Student Programs for Urban Development (SPUD) represents a major part of the Holy Cross experience for many people on the Hill.  In a typical semester, over 500 students volunteer weekly with more than 40 diverse community partnerships in the Worcester area.  Like almost all aspects of college life, however, SPUD operations have changed significantly as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.  Most program sites are closed, and those that remain open are operating in a virtual model for limited volunteers.  Despite these unprecedented challenges, the SPUD leadership team has remained committed to maintaining meaningful connections with the Holy Cross and greater Worcester community.  

Since the fall semester, SPUD volunteers, interns, program directors, and community organizers have focused their attention on continuing to develop relationships with Worcester partners.  The pandemic has exacerbated many of the social issues that SPUD sites seek to address, such as poverty, homelessness, and hunger.  This has created the unique opportunity for SPUD to mobilize and offer support to Worcester neighbors where needed.  Last semester, SPUD organized a virtual Thanksgiving food drive to raise donations for a local food pantry and the Nativity School.  The drive raised over $6,000, enough to give every family a gift card to purchase food for their holiday meal in addition to the food pantry donation.  SPUD Community Organizers also partnered with the Worcester Voter Registration Initiative and Worcester Interfaith to support their respective election and legislative initiatives. 

Graphic by Hui Li ’21. Logo from SPUD’s Instagram Page, Outline of Worcester from Google Maps.

Marty Kelly, Associate Chaplain and SPUD Advisor, has remained dedicated to creating volunteer opportunities for SPUD participants even in a remote setting.  Last semester, some students were able to continue volunteering at their regular sites through Zoom.  These opportunities have expanded for the Spring 2021 semester.  “With collaboration from CBL and Government & Community Relations,” Kelly told The Spire, “we have developed a platform to promote virtual volunteer opportunities and over 200 students have registered this year.  “While many of our sites have not been able to operate virtually, we’ve had other successes.  From Halloween baskets being dropped off to surprise children, to cards and letters written for nursing home residents, to creating virtual content that can be shared in the classroom, and gathering donations across campus to provide thousands of dollars in food assistance to a local food pantry as well as every Nativity School family – we’re making it work as best we can.”

SPUD Community Organizing Intern Catherine Winn ’21, echoed this point as she shared her hopes for SPUD during this unique semester: “Despite its remote nature, SPUD was successful last semester in continuing with volunteer opportunities and creating initiatives that engaged our campus and greater Worcester. Now that students are on campus, I am hopeful that this will be a more positive semester, and I am confident that the energy fostered last semester around SPUD initiatives will increase exponentially this spring. For SPUD, I hope that we will be able to engage more first-years and strengthen the connections between our current volunteers, program directors, and community organizers. With respect to the community organizers, I hope to continue to address issues of social justice, not just in Worcester, but on our campus as well. Holy Cross is in a state of great transformation, as we begin to welcome a new President while addressing the needs of our community during a pandemic. Now more than ever, we need to come together to undertake issues of inequality and injustice with the goal of creating long-lasting change in our communities.”

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