In order to help flatten the COVID-19 curve in Broome County and promote values of sustainability, Binghamton University’s environment and ecology knowledge community (KC) of the Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) is working to make a positive impact on the community by raising money for reusable masks.

The ELP is a certificate-based program that helps BU freshmen and incoming transfer students develop their leadership skills through project learning in interest-based groups, or KCs, such as environment and ecology. A GoFundMe page was set up in early October that has now raised over $800 for the cause as of Nov. 8. With that money, the group purchased 500 reusable masks that they plan to distribute to underrepresented members of Broome County.

Kylie Magill, a member of the environment and ecology KC and a junior majoring in environmental studies, explained how the project prioritizes values of sustainability and community safety by providing resources to people in need.

“I think the way we tied the current pandemic into our environmental theme was really successful,” Magil wrote. “We were able to show that [personal protective equipment] products can pollute the environment, and we backed up the fact that using reusable masks is helpful with reducing the pollution.”

Olivia Connolly, another member of the environment and ecology ELP group and an undeclared freshman, gave additional insight into the motivations of the team, stating its goal to make a positive impact in such a dark time.

“As a group who is passionate about the well-being of our environment and those who inhabit it, we wanted our service-learning project to reflect that,” Connolly wrote.

Connolly explained the importance of the fundraiser as both a measure to slow the spread of COVID-19 and a chance to make a stronger connection with her peers.

“I think we can all agree this year has been rather gloomy with the tragedies the pandemic has brought,” Connolly said. “However, being a part of the environment and ecology KC in the ELP program has shined a light in the darkness for me. My group is made up of open-minded, kind and caring people who I have come to care about so much in this short amount of time.”

Their mission is predicted to be completed within the following few weeks, with distribution as the final step. BU’s campus has already seen a rapid decline in COVID-19 cases. As of Nov. 7, BU has had 0 positive cases in the Nov. 7 to Nov. 20 two-week period and 48 positive cases in the prior two-week period from Oct. 24 to Nov. 6. With the help of the fundraiser, along with additional measures of caution, Broome County may soon follow suit.

Jessica Detwiler, a sophomore double-majoring in environmental science and biology, is working to oversee this project as an ELP mentor. She shared the group’s efforts to advertise to various organizations around the community.

“Our plan is to distribute these reusable masks to underserved people in Broome County and the Binghamton community,” Detwliler wrote. “So far we have been in touch with a local school, a soup kitchen [and] the Salvation Army. Throughout this fall we have advertised via social media, B-Line and other on-campus methods to encourage people to donate to our [service-learning project].”

Julia Fitzgerald, an undeclared freshman, said she was excited about the project.

“We hope that it will limit [COVID-19] waste in Binghamton and encourage others to be aware of the environment during these unprecedented times,” Fitzgerald wrote.

To find the team’s GoFundMe page, click here.