Honoring Frontline Health Care Workers Becomes Lesson in Leadership for Students

Students delivered 700 meals to Cooper University Hospital health care workers.

Students delivered 700 meals to Cooper University Hospital health care workers. (Photo/Cooper University Hospital)

By Jeanne Leong

The dedication of health care workers during the pandemic and the impact of the lockdown on local businesses inspired a Rutgers University‒Camden class to give back to the Camden community by purchasing meals from local restaurants to donate to hospital employees.

On May 18, students in the Rutgers‒Camden Business Leader Development Program delivered 300 hoagies and 400 pastelillos (meat pies) to Cooper University Hospital to thank the staff for their service during the pandemic.

“It’s been a rough year, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” said Areej Tariq, a senior business major. “We want to remember what health care workers went through and the struggles of local businesses.”

Led by instructor Susanna Krivanek, the students developed leadership skills by creating a community service project for the course’s final project. The “Hoagies for Heroes” initiative raised nearly $2,500 by hosting a virtual 5K run fundraiser held in April, and reaching out to area businesses for donations. The class used the funds to purchase hoagies from Market Street Pizza in Camden and the pastelillos from La Cocina in Pennsauken.

“The program helps them to learn the tools, have the knowledge, and gain experiences to decide what impact they want to make as leaders,” says Krivanek.

Developing a safe event to raise funds during the pandemic proved to be a challenge for the Rutgers University–Camden business students.

“We had to come up with an event that would still work virtually, even as social distance restrictions were being lifted to an extent, so our options were somewhat limited,” says Andrew Barnhardt, a junior finance major from Audubon. “We decided on a virtual 5K because we could create some sense of group cohesiveness virtually and still provide an option for people to just donate money if they chose not to walk or run.”

Cooper Hospital workers show their appreciation for the hoagies and pastilillos

Cooper University Hospital workers thanking students for the meals. (Photo/Cooper University Hospital)

In coordinating the event and creating an Instagram page, each student took on responsibilities that meshed with their skill sets and connections. A runner himself, Barnhardt handled the “Hoagies for Heroes” account on the Run Signup website for participants and donors. Other students contacted restaurants, handled social media, edited a video to publicize the event, and called local businesses seeking donations of prizes for creative photos of participants’ runs and routes.

The students’ efforts paid off when they delivered the meals to the hospital and saw how much the staff appreciated their generosity.

“To give back to the community, it’s a great feeling,” says Tariq.

Posted in: Community Outreach

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