Local College Student Puts Her Skills to Work for the Good of Her Community

Whitney Koss hasn’t allowed COVID-19 to stop her from serving her community, even if it’s from her family’s kitchen table in Oneida.

Whitney Koss should be finishing out her junior year of college in Bourbonnais, IL on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University. However, due to COVID-19, Whitney is at home with her family in Oneida.

Whitney is studying to become a social worker and has a deep heart for service. A ROWVA graduate, who has always been greatly involved with school activities both at the high school and collegiate level, her church, and community, she knew she could put the important skills she’s learning to be a social worker into action, even from her family’s kitchen table.

Having a personal connection with Galesburg Community Foundation’s Director of Communications, Karlie Elliott Bowman, Whitney decided to send Karlie a text. That text resulted in a long conversation about Whitney’s skills, professional ambitions and a desire to serve her community even amongst shelter in place orders.

“I was inspired by classmates who were using the skills we are learning in class to try to pool resources for anyone who might need it during this time. I decided there was no time like the present to step up and try to help anywhere I can. So, I called Karlie to see what her thoughts were on the needs in our community.”

The two talked at length about Whitney’s interests, skills and desire to help. Whitney shared how her classmates were helping their communities gather information about available resources and how to connect with those resources. That’s when Karlie brought up Knox County United Way’s 2-1-1 program and the importance of keeping the resource up to date, especially now.

Karlie said, “Whitney and I had a robust conversation about the many ways she could aid our region, even from home. There were many options to think about and we decided to contact Laun Dunn, executive director of the United Way of Knox County, as their organization is currently not only working to fulfill their mission, but is also aiding providing school lunches to local school children and families.”

Laun was quick to respond to Whitney, providing her contact information for local organizations to update through 2-1-1.

Laun said, “The 2-1-1 system is a valuable tool that requires the most current information.  As the COVID-19 crisis unfolded, the rapid changes in social services needed to be recorded and transmitted to the operators.  Whitney’s efforts to work tirelessly behind the scenes gave our 2-1-1 operators a level of confidence in knowing they could provide timely and accurate information to Knox County residents in crisis.”

Whitney said, “I have been able to gather about two to three pages worth of updates for 2-1-1 so far. This is exciting for me as a social work major because a year from now I will be out trying to find a job. Learning what organizations are in our counties and what they have to offer has been very eye opening. Many of these organizations I had not heard of, but updating the 2-1-1 for United Way has introduced me to them. Hopefully I will be able to volunteer for those organizations or keep helping United Way as this crisis continues.”

To connect community members like Whitney with a desire to serve their community, Forefront and the United Way of Knox County launched GetConnected, an online volunteer platform.  Visit myforefront.galaxydigital.com to learn about local volunteer opportunities or to create your very own volunteer profile.

To learn more about supporting local nonprofits dealing with COVID-19 in Knox and Warren Counties and to give, visit Galesburg Community Foundations page for the Rapid Response Fund at www.YourGCF.org/RapidResponse.

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