As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, members of the Goshen College student body are giving their time to help with efforts. 

"It’s a way to help out a community in a time that we all need some extra help."

— Rachel Versluis, senior nursing major

The Center for Healing and Hope, a nonprofit formed in 1999 to help uninsured, vulnerable and underserved neighbors in the Goshen area, has been assisted by students as they offer free COVID-19 testing to those uninsured.

Rachel Versluis, a senior nursing major, first found out about options to volunteer when she received an email earlier this year. 

The Center for Healing and Hope trained her in May to do antibody tests, and she began volunteering. 

“I’m still doing it occasionally when I can fit it into my schedule,” Versluis said. “I was really grateful to have something to do initially. There is a great need in this community to have testing available, especially free tests.” 

Versluis’ volunteering includes going back and forth between various roles.

She sometimes helps with tests, such as antibody tests, which included finger printings and vein punctures, or nasal swab tests. 

Verluis also helps people register and fill out “the very long questionnaire.” 

Other tasks include traffic control and the lab work for processing blood. 

“I really like the organization,” Versluis said. “I like their commitment to the community, in particular the Latino community who may not have access to healthcare otherwise.” 

While she does not speak Spanish, Versluis said she was still able to volunteer. 

Brooke Stutzman, a senior nursing major and fellow volunteer, is also glad to volunteer at The Center for Healing and Hope. 

Stutzman is currently in a health rotation as part of her major and was glad to be placed at the center. 

She previously was tested there, and was “grateful for the opportunity to give back.”

“I think if I would’ve volunteered back in May, it would’ve been a lot scarier,” Stutzman said. “There was a lot more fear, and now [testing] is a thing we have to do, some people are afraid of tests hurting, some don’t.”  

“It’s interesting being on the other side of the line,” Stutzman said.

Stuzman had a similar experience to Versluis. 

“I mainly do the swabbing when I’m there,” she said. “Going up to cars, getting their names and getting their swab done. Sometimes, I have to walk them through the process.” 

Stutzman was often asked by people if they could continue working until they received results. 

“I always encourage them to act like they’re positive until they get results,” Stutzman said. 

Stutzman still faces the fear of interacting with people who were asymptomatic. To keep the volunteers safe, the volunteers wear gloves, a yellow PPE gown, a N94 face mask and face shield. 

Stutzman sometimes wears two layers of gloves to keep her hands warm, as volunteers aren’t allowed to wear nonmedical gloves while administering tests. 

“Another challenge is testing children,” Stutzman said. “I had to test an 18-month-old [recently]. And they don’t know what’s going on, and it can feel hurtful to them.”

Versluis encouraged other students to volunteer. 

“You don’t need a healthcare background,” she said. “You don’t have to speak Spanish, but that helps. Anyone who would like to can.” 

Stutzman agreed.

“I would say that if you have the time to go a couple of hours, especially if you are fluent in Spanish … You can help get people pre-registered if they don’t know what’s going on, to get a test,” she said.

The Center for Healing and Hope provides tutorials for volunteers, PPE and allows you to choose the level of exposure you are willing to do, ranging from low to high risk.

“Be flexible and be willing to jump into different roles that you didn’t initially sign up for,” Versluis said. 

“It’s a way to help out a community in a time that we all need some extra help,” Stutzman said. “The community needs to come together to help the people who don’t have the resources to get tested.”