The COVID-19 pandemic has not been prejudiced in the way it has affected daily life.
Businesses scrambled to find ways to keep customers engaged while schools did anything and everything to ensure students kept on learning.
Baldwin County’s Life Enrichment Center (LEC), which serves individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, found itself in a similar boat back in the spring. The facility was closed in March, and many in the Baldwin County area were without the services they so desperately needed.
“When we were told that everybody had to go home, we realized that the individuals that we supported at the LEC were struggling like everybody else with the social isolation,” said LEC Executive Director Barbara Coleman.
The individuals served by the LEC were not getting their daily interactions with staff and volunteers, and their enrichment opportunities like music and art were suddenly off the table. That was until Coleman and her skeleton staff launched “LEC at Home,” a virtual way of continuing those vital services the local center provides.
“That worked for a little while as long as we were small,” Coleman said. “As our individuals started to get more connected, we started reaching out to the community for some support.”
A local church provided iPads that were sent to individuals’ homes so they could remain plugged in to the LEC, but another problem soon presented itself.
“What we didn’t foresee was how the technology would take off and how our very outdated, antiquated system would not support that,” said Coleman.
The LEC server was installed at least 15 years ago, according to the executive director, and was nowhere near up to the standard needed to support livestreaming on 50 or so devices. In stepped the Kappa Alpha fraternity at Georgia College. The 59-member fraternity has a history of helping out the LEC, and did so again this year when aid was needed maybe more than ever.
“When Barbara told me that their server was going down and that they needed this money, I was so excited to be able to help them,” said KA president Charlie Haug.
The LEC sponsored a contest between two fraternities at GC, and it was the KA’s who stepped up in a big way by collecting $2,500 in donations over the course of just two weeks. Not only that, but KA also volunteered at a car wash to help raise more money.
“They really showed up and showed out for us, and they have always done that,” Coleman said.
For at least the past eight years, KA has partnered with another campus fraternity to organize “County Line,” a concert fundraiser that benefited the LEC in the past. With the pandemic still ongoing, that annual fall concert was out of the question, so Haug and his brothers found other ways to lend a hand through donations and volunteering.
“We needed to make sure we did something for them,” Haug said. “The LEC is the best organization we could hope to work with. They’re great people who do great stuff, and we’re so happy to partner with them.”
The result is that the LEC’s online services are now available to all 71 individuals the center served pre-COVID. Coleman said 38 are currently receiving these services with 30 of the 38 opting for a hybrid of online and in-person.
Another result is the continued relationship between KA and the LEC. Haug said that his fraternity is working on developing future ways to raise funds for the organization. Meanwhile the fraternity has some new artwork to hang as Georgina Babb, one of the individuals served by the LEC, created some canvas artwork in KA’s signature crimson and gold colors.