Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Thank you, Antigonish!—Parents of StFX student plan local bursary as thanks for community kindness, volunteer program helping students through self-isolation 

October 7th, 2020
Antigonish town councillor Mary Farrell is seen here delivering baked goods and groceries to students Bridget McCann and Mary Caplice as part of the Neighbours Helping Neighbours program.

It all started with a text message, warm words of welcome and an offer to help from Neighbours Helping Neighbours volunteer Dr. Kim Burnett to third year StFX student Sam Baker of Bowmanville, ON, returning to StFX and Antigonish to complete 14 days mandatory isolation. 

This kindness—multiplied many times over the next few weeks by some 240 volunteers—community members, StFX faculty, staff and alumni participating in the StFX Alumni Affairs program, was so impactful it prompted Sam’s parents, Lisa and Dean Baker, to create a bursary to benefit a local student.  

The Bakers, after thanking their son’s volunteer support person, felt they wanted to do something more to recognize the community as a whole for its generosity. They contacted StFX Advancement to see about creating a bursary to benefit a local student, a fund others who feel likewise could also contribute to. 

“My husband and I are so very thankful for all the volunteers and staff in the StFX and Antigonish communities who have helped him, his roommates, and fellow classmates get through this time,” says Ms. Baker noting all those who picked up groceries, dropped off baked goodies, provided calls of welcome and supported over 600 off-campus students from outside the Atlantic ‘bubble’ through isolation.

“We are very much aware that students returning to campus has created anxiety for many in the community. To still reach out and embrace these kids is an act of selflessness that is not to be forgotten.”

Ms. Baker says she knows this wasn’t easy for the community, who must be feeling anxious. “Antigonish stepped up to help. That’s pretty unique and special.”

ALL LIVING THROUGH TIME OF COVID 

“We’re all living through this time of COVID, and we were anxious to send him,” Ms. Baker says. “My son desperately wanted to go and with all you’re doing, he felt comfortable. The province, the school, the Atlantic ‘bubble,’ everyone, had everything in place to make me feel safe.”

She says for Sam being able to return is a gift. “It’s his second home. He loves it there and to have that available is a godsend. It’s a perfect fit for him.”Ms. Baker says before her son left home, he received wonderful messages from Dr. Burnett indicating how excited she was to welcome him back, letting him know that she was there to help, and that she was an X grad herself.  

“It made us feel less anxious.”

She says it was comforting too to know that her son could go to class, knowing that everyone had completed self-isolation, along with three COVID-19 tests.  

MEANS THE WORLD

“It means the world, honestly, being back here,” says Sam. “This feels like home at this point. This is my third year here. I’m really impressed by everyone, by the whole province, in general, in handling the situation.”

The Neighbours Helping Neighbours program definitely made him and fellow students feel welcome, he says. 

In particular, he praised his volunteer support person. “She was super generous, and she went out of her way to help,” he says, noting how she picked up groceries for some housemates who didn’t yet have their support person set up, got project supplies for him from Kent and Canadian Tire, and texted him to check in to see how he was doing and if he needed anything. 

“Always being there, that was the biggest thing,” he says. 

“Quarantine would definitely have been a lot more challenging without a support person.”

He says he and his housemates knew there was debate about having students back, and he says they wanted to show they respect the rules and quarantine. 

One thing that was nice about the two week isolation is that it gave students time to settle in, prepare and be in the mindset for being back at school and starting classes, he says. 

ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

Dr. Burnett says, “As soon as I heard about the Neighbours Helping Neighbours program, I happily signed up because I felt strongly that we all had to work together to make the return to campus succeed. For me, volunteering though was as much about helping keep the community safe as it was about helping students make it through the unenviable situation of being stuck inside for two weeks with as much ease as possible. This pandemic highlights that we really are all in this together; we all have to do what we can as a community to keep each other well. The Bakers’ generosity is a wonderful amplification of how we can work together to help our communities thrive.”

StFX Alumni Affairs Director Shanna Hopkins says the Neighbours Helping Neigbhours program was created as a means to provide a safe and responsible return to campus for students from outside the Atlantic ‘bubble.’  “We knew in creating this program, the only way it would be successful was to have the help from our amazing alumni and community members. This program allowed community members to connect with our amazing students by means of a call, a doorstep visit, a grocery drop-off, or for many of our lucky students, the delivery of freshly baked cookies or muffins. We received many positive comments, calls and emails from parents, and it truly warms my heart to see how the Bakers are going above and beyond to reciprocate the generosity from so many from the community.”  

By all accounts, it was an overwhelming success. 

Sam Baker admits he was a little nervous to return to StFX, wondering how different COVID would make the school year, and how would he learn, study, socialize. 

“It’s different,” he says, “but not as bad as I had thought. It’s not as completely foreign as I thought it may be. It still feels like StFX.” 

For those wishing to express their gratitude to the community of Antigonish for making the student return so pleasant, Lisa and Dean ask you go to this link www.stfx.ca/give and scroll to ‘Other’ designation box and indicate Antigonish Student X Bursary. 

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