Indiana professor sends students care packages amid pandemic

Chuck Armstrong had an embarrassing moment on Zoom.

Posted: Apr 20, 2020 9:02 AM

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Chuck Armstrong had an embarrassing moment on Zoom.

An assistant professor of graphic design at the University of Southern Indiana, Armstrong has been conducting class via video conferencing.

Once his lectures are over, he keeps the calls open to allow students to work on projects, like they would in a physical studio.

And while they make art, they get to chatting.

“They were complaining about how they’ve been stuck,” Armstrong said of the conversation one day. “One student in particular said the only time that they get out is when they deliver food to their sibling.”

Armstrong was a bit baffled by those words.

“You can go to the store,” he recalled telling the student. “It’s OK to go to the store.”

“Chuck, I lost my campus job when they closed campus,” he remembered the student saying back. “I don’t have any money.”

Armstrong learned the student only ate when they delivered a meal to their sister at work, who would buy them some food.

“I’m like two inches tall at that point,” Armstrong said.

He immediately knew he had to do something. So he decided to send the student a care package.

It wouldn’t be much, he acknowledged, but it could make a little bit of difference.

“They can make some popcorn at night,” he said. “There’s some Oreo cookies, mac and cheese. That’s a staple among college students.”

When he went shopping, he bought two of everything so he could send a package to someone else, too.

He wanted to make the project bigger, but he knew he needed more money. He started a fundraiser on GoFundMe and began accepting the names of people to whom he could send the packages.

He started with a modest goal of just $100. Donations and requests for packages started trickling in, and then the deluge just hit.

As of Tuesday afternoon, he’s raised more than $1,300, well over his initial goal of $100, and that number continues to rise. He’s upped the goal to $1,600.

He’s sent out 26 packages and has the supplies to send out another 35. Each package costs between $15 and $20, and he’s aiming to ship at least 100.

About three-quarters of the packages are sent to addresses in Indiana, and most of the others to Kentucky, Armstrong said, but he’s shipped some out to as far away as Georgia and Kansas and planned to send one to New York on Wednesday.

He’s also made a website, CoronaCarePackage.org, that invites users to submit the name and address of someone needing a care package and allows them to attach a personalized note.

Armstrong said the website was one way to use his professional skills to help those in need.

“I’m going to pick an appropriate font, and it’s not going to be ugly,” he said before making the site.

But more importantly, he said, graphic design is about being presented with a problem and figuring out how to solve it with the tools at hand.

It was pretty much just Armstrong when he started over a week ago. He had to find the time between teaching classes, advising students and other work and personal demands.

But as the project grew, people have reached out with offers to help. He said he couldn’t have done it alone.

“It feels pretty good,” he said. “In a way it’s kind of humbling because people have been really, really generous.”

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