RCBC Town Hall closes out 2020 calendar with community service panel

Volunteers discuss how giving back helps everyone, especially in a pandemic

Special to The Sun: Panelists Ashley Concilio-Regan and Rebekah Feinberg shared how they both had a hand in the recovery of Tommy the Squirrel, a small patient that Concilio-Regan brought to Medford’s Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge, where Feinberg volunteers.

Rowan College at Burlington County (RCBC) closed out its 2020 town hall schedule with a virtual panel about the importance of giving back to the community.

Ashley Concilio-Regan of the American Red Cross; RCBC biology student and service-learning scholar Rebekah Feinberg; Lizzy Swiderski of Soles4Souls; and sign-language interpreter Dina Toth, joined RCBC President Dr. Michael Cioce for a conversation about the benefits of service to others, how it’s been adapted for a global health crisis and how examples of help can inspire anyone who steps up to make a difference. 

“COVID has, obviously, disrupted aspects of all of our lives,” Cioce said. “Today, we’re hoping to … learn about the will of people to do good things, and finding a way to do that good.”

Feinberg began by explaining how her program’s 200 required hours of community service led her to Medford’s Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge, where volunteers endeavor to nurse sick or injured animals back to health so they can be released into the wild.

With a goal of becoming a surgeon, being a part of the wildlife refuge team has given Feinberg the opportunity to learn about a variety of furry, feathered and four-legged patients, whose biology is remarkably similar to that of humans. 

“Especially in Gen. Bio II, the course, we learned about wildlife, and animals have a very similar respiratory and circulatory system to humans,” Feinberg explained. “Volunteering here … has me dipping my toes into some type of volunteering, community service with biology involved.”

In a collision of worlds, Feinberg mentioned how she helped treat Tommy the Squirrel, an injured critter that Marlton resident and fellow panelist Concilio-Regan herself brought to Cedar Run.

Concilio-Regan spoke about the American Red Cross’ years-long partnership with Rowan, which has grown considerably since its early days of running five blood drives a year, thanks to campus and community donors’ overwhelming response.

That determination to give blood has not abated during the pandemic, she said. 

“The school has been amazing to continue to open the doors and allow us every month, multiple times a month, to collect blood,” Concilio-Regannoted. “Since March, we’ve ran 14 blood drives (at RCBC) … We collected 471 units, and that potentially will save 1,413 lives.”

She added that eligible full-blood donors can donate every 56 days.

No matter the state of the world, Cioce emphasized that the Red Cross is constantly seeking donations while RCBC will continue to do its part to connect Burlington County donors with the nonprofit.

“COVID or no COVID, there’s always a need,” he acknowledged. “I’m glad that you found us … I’m glad that we’ve been able to have the drives that we’ve had and the drives we’re going to schedule when the calendar turns to 2021.”

Swiderski collects new or gently used shoes and clothing throughout both New Jersey and Philadelphia for those who can’t afford professional attire. She also shared how the RCBC and national community have helped those in need — as well as the environment — by supporting the Nashville-based nonprofit,  Soles4Souls.  

“Rowan has definitely helped out with that, especially during COVID, by placing an outdoor bin on (the) campus,” Swiderski explained, which helps maintain social distance and minimize direct person-to-person interactions while still giving Burlington County residents a place to drop off their donations. 

Swiderski added that RCBC has provided Soles4Souls’ beneficiaries with about 1,400 pairs of shoes and 800 pounds of clothing.

Speakers also explored ways their nonprofits have adapted to operating safely in a global health crisis while, in many cases, simultaneously meeting the increased demand of those still struggling with COVID’s fallout. In addition to new efforts like donation bins for Soles4Souls and American Red Cross blood drives  adapted to pandemic conditions, volunteers described why it’s crucial for organizations to get creative in how they rise to meet their groups’ increased needs, often by relying on the strengths of pre-pandemic partnerships.

“When the pandemic happened, it was just cancelation after cancelation, and we didn’t think we could rebuild,” Concilio-Regan admitted.”We had to get more blood drives on the calendar. We have the donors: Someone who would only give at their company blood drive was looking for local community blood drives. … (RCBC was) running drives every month, and that’s new donors every time,  when they’re less than 56 days (apart).” 

The Rowan panelists answered questions from an interactive live chat, including ways anyone can use their time and efforts to help others. Throughout the virtual panel, those interested in volunteering were encouraged to reach out to RCBC’s Erica Franklin at efranklin@rcbc.edu

RCBC already has two blood drives scheduled for the new year, first on Jan. 7 and then Jan. 20. Donors can learn more and sign up at redcrossblood.org and use the sponsor code RCBCML. 

The panel can be viewed through RCBC’s Facebook page by selecting the video option at facebook.com/RowanCollegeAtBurlingtonCounty.