Columbia community partners with South Side hospital to raise funds for mobile coronavirus testing

By Lauren Leazenby, Staff Reporter

Courtesy Madeline Hayes, Peilun He and Xinhuan Mi
Columbia students, professors and alumni have rallied to put together a virtual fundraiser to raise funds for Roseland Community Hospital’s coronavirus mobile testing unit.

Sewing face masks, sending homemade cards to health care workers and now raising funds for mobile coronavirus testing, the Columbia community continues to do its part in stemming the pandemic.

A former student from Exclusive PR, an agency founded and staffed mostly by Columbia graduates, contacted Jane Canepa, a part-time faculty member in the Business and Entrepreneurship Department, and recommended Roseland Community Hospital as a good focus for her class’ public relations project and fundraising efforts. From there, students began organizing in early April to help.

Roseland Community Hospital was one of the first South Side hospitals to offer drive-thru coronavirus testing in early April and has since added a mobile unit to bring testing directly to communities where access to health care is limited.

Additional funding is needed, though, in order for Roseland, 45 W. 111th St., to deliver services to other underserved communities across the city, including health care facilities, nursing homes and other places disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus.

Team Test Truck, the end-of-semester project organized by Canepa’s “Special Events and Promotions” class, is a virtual fundraising initiative to help close that funding gap.

The aim is to provide for those who would not otherwise have access to proper testing, said Celia Knox, a freshman public relations major who heads communications and outreach for the project.

Ideally, Knox said the project will secure enough funds to allow testing trucks to travel to those in need across the Chicagoland area.

Students decided to help Roseland because they saw the hospital already doing good in the community, said Caity Gee, a sophomore arts management major and member of the project’s public relations committee.

“Considering everything that’s happening, we wanted to pick somewhere that has its own approach to handling the situation,” Gee said.

The class created a website and social media accounts for the initiative, and Knox said the virtual fundraiser will be supplemented with entertainment from musicians, dancers and other artists via Facebook Live, adding that she hopes the fundraiser will reach a wider audience beyond Columbia.

Canepa said the livestreams will continue for several weeks with no set end date, and performances are continuously being added to the lineup. In addition to music, artists have also been invited to share their knowledge in live “education hours,” which touch on a variety of disciplines such as fitness and rap.

Vocalist and songwriter Jamel Lewis, a freshman music business major, kicked off the string of livestreams with covers of Stevie Wonder and Aloe Blacc and served as emcee for the event.

Lewis was a previous student of Canepa’s and has since performed in several of her events. For him, the fundraiser is about selflessness.

“I feel like this time that we’re in … it’s really made me, on a personal level, look at what’s most important in life,” Lewis said. “This opportunity gives me a chance to consider other families.”

Donations that will be forwarded to Roseland Community Hospital can be made via PayPal on the event’s website.

“[The students] need to be attached to something positive right now,” Canepa said. “We’re starting a little fire, and who knows where it is going to go.”