Community Engagement During COVID-19

June 12th, 2020

From right, in a photo taken in pre-pandemic times, The Citizen’s publisher Andrew Jenner ‘04 and assistant editor Randi B. Hagi ‘14, with publishers Bridget Nolan Manley and Ryan Alessi. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Over these past few months, Crossroads has collected (through the grapevine) snippets of information about how our alumni are engaging in their communities with the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s a few we’ve saved to share:

SINCE 2018, The Citizen ( has provided free, online, independent journalism for Shenandoah Valley readers, with pandemic coverage featuring in-depth looks at government budget decisions, health and medical issues, the food industry and more. The publishers are Andrew Jenner ‘04, Bridget Nolan Manley and Ryan Alessi. Randi B. Hagi ‘14 is an assistant editor. Freelance contributors have included Ryan Eshleman-Robles ‘13, Liesel Graber ‘18, Harrison Horst ‘18, John Leonard ‘92, and Luisa Miller ‘17.

STUCK AT HOME? Want to dance? Want to dance with somebody? Katie Mansfield, STAR lead trainer, started “Dancing Resilience,” a virtual community of around 740 members, dancing five times day, and connecting globally through music and movement. Katie recently finished her doctorate in expressive arts and conflict transformation with the European Graduate School in Switzerland, so she can not only dance but she can share theory behind it. Ask to join the “Dancing Resilience” group on Facebook.

WE KNOW MORE ROYALS are sewing masks out there, but here’s a shoutout to Phil Helmuth ‘76, volunteer development coordinator with Mennonite Disaster Services, who helped to coordinate production of homemade masks among Mennonite church congregations and Old Order groups here in the Valley.

KEN SEITZ ‘60 has been keeping a daily journal to chronicle life under lockdown at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community, focusing on what is different about each day, from phone conversations to emails, the stock market, Zoom church, weather, and bits of inspiration from poetry and readings. “Were I not recording the daily happenings and events of our lives, many of them trivial, we’d look back and wonder how did we survive? What was it like?” His wife Audrey Metz ‘62 is also writing, but prefers to compose by hand.

RITA M. SMITH ‘86, Blountstown, Fla., shared the news this winter of her promotion as the statewide public health director of nursing at the Florida Department of Health. Then in March, she emailed us to let us know she was activated to the Florida Emergency Operations Command for the COVID-19 pandemic. Rita is pursuing her MPH from Florida State University, and holds a DNP from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

ALSO IN HARRISONBURG, Kirsten Moore ‘93 opened Magpie and Friends Market, partnering with farmers, chefs and bakers who usually supply to restaurants to serve customers in a no-touch, drive-through format. She will open Magpie Diner and Bakery in the coming months. Kirsten was a panelist during a May webinar hosted by the EMU Business and Professional Club on the theme of “successful pivots during the COVID-19 pandemic” (Jair Drooger ‘97, of CT Assist and EMU’s new Center for Innovation and Leadership, and trustee Deanna Reed, mayor of Harrisonburg, also joined.)

GWEN SNAVELY ANGEL ‘98, Seattle, Wa., was featured in a photoessay in the May issue of Rolling Stone magazine with other healthcare professionals on the front lines in Seattle. She is an assistant nurse manager in emergency services at University of Washington Harborview Medical Center.

ALSO IN SEATTLE, Eric Moyer, class of ‘03, was among three volunteer designers with the nonprofit Design That Matters to create one of the first open source 3-D printed face shields – and this is cool – fellow alum Gwen Angel was a collaborator. Eric is an engineer at Boeing. Check it out at

IN JUST TWO WEEKS, April Hepler MA ‘12 (counseling), helped to launch the Shenandoah Valley Emotional Support Line, a COVID-19 hotline staffed by volunteer mental health professionals. April is executive director of Adagio House, which also employs Casey Hurren MA ‘18 (counseling), Rebecca Peifer ‘00, MA ‘18 (counseling), and current graduate student Melissa Fisher.

EVAN LANDES ‘03, Raleigh, N.C., is an assistant manager at Octapharma Inc., which is involved in plasma donation collection, and specifically at this time, focusing on convalescent plasma of recovered COVID-19 patients.