Much is made of the Wellesley motto and its imperative to serve others, but it is a sentiment that rings true for many alumnae, especially during times of crisis. The global pandemic has made people around the world feel scared, isolated, and helpless. Although staying home was the most important thing most people could do, for many Wellesley alumnae, it simply wasn’t enough.
At the beginning of the crisis, when stay-at-home orders began to ripple across the country, one alum came up with an idea to help those in the Wellesley community stay connected. Class secretary Lara Trimarco Prebble ’19 suggested that alumnae from the more recent classes could write and reach out to alums from the older classes. Emails went out asking for volunteers, and more than 1,000 alums signed up.
Sheltering in place in New York City, Shloka Ananthanarayanan ’08 is just one who answered the call. “All of the rules were up in the air, things were constantly changing day to day, and there was a little bit of a helplessness, [a feeling of] there’s nothing tangible that you can do,” she says. “When this hit my inbox, it was such a great feeling of, ‘Oh, here’s something I can actually sit down and do.’” So she did, choosing two alumnae from the class of 1948 and two from the class of 1958. She heard back quickly from one alum in the class of 1948, who called her after she received her letter. “It was lovely,” Ananthanarayanan says. “She was very excited and thrilled that Wellesley had done this.”
Creating connections during this isolated time was on the minds of many Wellesley alumnae, particularly those in leadership positions in classes and clubs. Class of 1983 President Wendy Salz hosts a regular conference call with her fellow class officers, and as the crisis hit, she was in the process of scheduling that call when she had a thought. “Why don’t I just open it up to the class as a place to drop in and check in and vent and just have a place to be,” Salz says. Since then, the class has held a call every Sunday at the same time, with alums participating from as far away as Paris and Greece. “To be able to focus on my friends, my classmates, and to be able to provide them with something that they need, makes me really, really happy,” Salz says. “It makes me proud to be part of the class of 1983, and it certainly makes me proud to be part of the alumnae group at Wellesley College.”
Focusing on others has also been a boon for Charlotte Kiang ’13, community service chair for the Wellesley College Club of Los Angeles. After hearing of the Washington (D.C.) Wellesley Club’s Community Connections Initiative—which allowed alumnae to offer or receive assistance—she wanted to start something similar in her area. She created a form for alums to sign up to either give or receive assistance in a variety of ways, from simply reaching out with a letter or phone call to offering to help pick up groceries or prescriptions. And after just a few weeks, the initiative had already reached over 100 alumnae.
“Service has been my way of staying sane during this time,” Kiang says. “It’s been my way of staying connected to the world.”