WCC Health and Wellness Services during COVID-19

Whatcom Community College’s Health and Wellness Committee will not be meeting this quarter due to necessary social distancing, but this does not mean the end of student aimed resources, says a partner and developer of Whatcom’s Orca Food Pantry.

Catherine Chambers is an AmeriCorps Vista who has been partnered with Whatcom’s Student Life and Development Office, working to explore what student hunger means for our college community.

Chambers describes the Orca food Pantry as a student initiative, and she works to assist and develop programs and educational opportunities with a focus on food insecurity amongst students.

According to Chambers, the Orca Food Pantry has served a total of 903 students between September of 2019 and March of 2020, receiving a total of 1,641 pounds of donations in that time.

Chambers says that the Orca Food Pantry is not currently distributing food due to health concerns. However, she hopes this will be made possible again in the near future.

Chambers said there are plans to continue to distribute Orca food resources already in development with careful consideration of student health and safety.

Meanwhile, Chambers said resources from the entire county can be found on Whatcom’s website, as many other local food banks are mobilizing in efforts to continue operation.

Chambers explained the precaution other local food banks are taking.

“They are distributing into cars and they have locations set up for walk-ups, and they are not always distributing at the same location they are using to process the food,” she said.

According to Chambers, these are similar precautions that the Orca Pantry hopes to use when reinstating food distribution.

Chambers says that money is continuing to be collected by the Orca Food Pantry and is accessible to students through emergency funds which are available through an application on Whatcom’s website.

“I really want students to know to not hesitate about asking for help because there is money to help students right now,” said Chambers. “If they’re in need of rent or housing or food, please, just fill out one of the applications and send it in.”

The Orca Food Pantry is not the only health and wellness service still serving students this quarter.

Kerri Holferty, director of Whatcom’s Access and Disability Services, wants students to know that their office is fully available to help.

“Access and Disability Services are still here to provide support and accommodations to students with disabilities in our virtual environment,” she said.

According to Holferty, details about the specific resources and services offered by the Access and Disability Services department can be found online on Whatcom’s home page at whatcom.edu.

Personal Counseling Services are still being made available too, says Paul Curd, a counselor at Whatcom.

Curd says that counseling is available to help students with a number of different things including anxiety, depression, and both relationship and academic matters.

Curd says that counseling appointments are still being taken and sessions are currently being held over the phone.

According to Curd, video counseling is in the process of becoming available but will not yet be offered until confidentiality can be assured with confidence.

“We just want to make sure that our student’s information remains secure,” said Curd. “The IT department is working with us to identify a few possible platforms we may be using in the future.”

Curd encourages any students who feel like they are struggling, to reach out to the resources around them which includes but is not limited to, personal counseling.

“We like to help, which is a very pro social value, but on the flip side of that, sometimes we don’t like asking for help,” said Curd about a prevailing social culture on campus.

According to Curd, Whatcom’s campus offers many broad and specific sources of support for varying aspects of student life.

“There’s a lot of places on campus where they are very willing to help,” Curd said. “You’ve got the peer mentors and pod leaders, there’s the AIM coaches, the advisors, and you can get help from a lot of the faculty and staff as well.”

Ultimately, Curd’s biggest encouragement to students is to reach out and utilize the resources available to them, and to not hesitate to do so in order to set themselves up for success.

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