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SEU Athletics Department Feeds At-Risk Elderly During Crisis

Southeastern University coaches and administration personnel are filling the gap as volunteers to deliver food to low-income elderly.
As things have drastically changed throughout the world due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the one thing that has not is the spirit of society to lend a helping hand in the most challenging of times. The athletics department personnel at NAIA-member Southeastern University (SEU) in Lakeland, Florida, have put this on display as they are helping the most vulnerable in their community.

Volunteers in Service to the Elderly (VISTE) is a service in the Lakeland area that is designed to service low-income residents of the community that are age 70 or older. Twice a week through VISTE, members of the SEU Fire Athletics Department deliver hot meals directly to citizens of the region whom qualify under the parameters.

Ordinarily, VISTE provides a grocery pickup service once a month for its constituents, but in the wake of COVID-19, it needed to adjust its model.

“The athletics department at Southeastern University stepped up to volunteer for our elderly neighbors when we had lost many of our regular volunteers,” said Julie McDonald, Volunteer and Events manager for VISTE. “Because of SEU, our hot meals program and our new supplemental grocery pickup process was able to continue without pause. Our clients, other volunteers, and staff enjoy the energy and spirit that SEU athletics bring to VISTE. We cannot thank SEU enough for all they have done!”

As things have changed, Southeastern athletics staff are issued a route to deliver these meals to prevent seniors from any potential risks involved with going to a warehouse to pick up necessary food items. This past month, the food was prepackaged and ready to go for those that still were able to drive to the location, except that everyone stayed in their cars while volunteers delivered directly to those that arrived.

“What we have tried to do as a department during this time is focus on others,” said Drew Watson, director of Athletics at Southeastern University. “I think providing hope and focusing on other people is really the key to getting through something like this. I’ve been proud of our department for getting on board and providing hope.”

Athletics departments around the NAIA are taking time to serve their communities in a number of ways, while always keeping in mind that “Servant Leadership” is one of the NAIA Champions of Character® five-core values that institutions take seriously as a foundation for the association.

“It’s important to me that as we attempt to instill the value of servant leadership in our student-athletes, that we model that behavior ourselves,” said Watson. “We can’t just talk about it. It’s one of the values that is best learned when modeled. You can’t fake it because servant leadership comes from the heart.”