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Boston College junior, back home in New Jersey, launches online project to help families in need

 Isabel Litterst, a Boston College junior.
Isabel Litterst, a Boston College junior.

After Boston College transitioned to remote learning earlier in the month, junior Isabel Litterst returned to her New Jersey hometown to begin taking classes online. While at home, Litterst could not avoid the news coverage of COVID-19 and, like so many people, felt disheartened by the stories of hardship.

Litterst took to the Internet to do her part. She’s created Foster a Family, an initiative that pairs families in need with those who can provide help.

“They’re being responsible citizens, in a lot of ways, by keeping their distance and not going to work,” Litterst said by phone from New Jersey. “A lot of them either don’t qualify for unemployment or are senior citizens or people more at risk.”

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The site features two surveys — one for helpers, one for those seeking help — from which Litterst gathers responses and pairs helpers with families accordingly. From there, she passes along contact information of the family in need to the helper, and the responsibility falls to them to reach out within five days of the initial connection. So far, she’s had roughly 20 people sign up, located primarily in Boston and New Jersey. It’s small, but it’s a start.

“I’ve had a lot of support from my friends at school who want to do something like this in their community,” Litterst said. “I’d like to expand it to other places.”

She also said the online form, allows for anonymous responses. “I really don’t want to dissuade anyone from reaching out if they need help,” Litterst said.

The types of aid Litterst has identified for helpers to provide include paying expenses such as rent or bills, delivering groceries or other household needs, filling prescriptions, or just offering a friendly phone call. As the network grows, Litterst said she will expand the reach of aid depending on what families in need request.

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Though she saw other campaigns set up to collect funds or resources for those in need, Litterst stressed the importance of real connections.

“I think especially right now, because people are so socially distant, it’s especially important that we make personal connections,” she said. “I think it’s more meaningful when it’s person to person.”