COVID-19 Stories: The Michigan Ross Alumni Club of Ann Arbor & Southeast Michigan Gives Back for First-Ever Volunteer Week

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Powered by BackPac, a virtual volunteering app founded by three alumni of the Ross School of Business, more than 40 Ross alumni from Southeast Michigan participated in contactless and virtual activities with local nonprofits to spread positivity in challenging times.

Due to the pandemic, the Ross Alumni Club of Ann Arbor & Southeast Michigan’s traditional day of volunteering was canceled, but they still wanted to give back to the community now more than ever. In response, club members challenged themselves to commit to a full week of contactless and virtual volunteering, and they partnered with BackPac to make it all happen.

Club members, their families, and friends signed up for volunteer opportunities using BackPac, which connects volunteers to projects with non-profit organizations in their area. Each initiative the alumni group took on centered around inequities amplified by COVID-19, such as hunger, education, shelter, and sustainability, and could be completed remotely or with a simple drop-off.

The events included packing and delivering student lunches and backpacks with school supplies; card-writing; collecting and donating nonperishable food supplies; mask-making; home repair tasks; and gardening. The range of events allowed participants to choose areas of interest and engage in a meaningful way.

The organizers of the volunteer week were alumni club members Marc Ingram, MBA ‘97, Rema Nasif, BBA ‘03, Raj Shah, MBA ‘11, Nessa Feller, BA ‘97, and BackPac founder Brenda Pak, MBA ‘18. They said that since Michigan Ross prides itself on social impact, they were proud to take that mission forward by giving back in new ways.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the ability of organizations to conduct their volunteering efforts, making the work of the alumni and the BackPac app even more important.

“Due to social distancing measures, volunteering has dramatically changed and many nonprofits can only accommodate less than half of their usual volunteers,” explained Pak, one of BackPac’s co-founders. However, she said demand for virtual volunteering has dramatically increased, and BackPac is working with nonprofits to provide opportunities to create virtual impact.

“We’re serious about creating an easy way for individuals and groups to join hands with local nonprofit partners and engage in modern-day activism and volunteerism,” said Pak. “We've definitely seen a shift in the way people volunteer but have also seen many more commit to helping those in need during these difficult times.” 

The  nonprofits that the alumni engaged with during their first virtual Volunteer Week were:

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