For a week each year, EVMS students volunteer with the Norfolk Emergency Shelter Team (NEST) to serve those suffering from homelessness, but due to COVID-19, student organizers couldn’t participate in person this year.

“We had to think about how we could provide for our marginalized populations in Hampton Roads and do it safely with volunteers working remotely,” says Rena Atayeva, MD Class of 2023, NEST co-leader.

Ms. Atayeva worked with NEST co-leaders to develop a plan to provide food for those in need from January 6 through 12. One group organized volunteers, another worked to create a menu for bagged meals and others created a budget and reached out to businesses who might be willing to donate or provide meals at a reduced cost.

Hannah James, MD Class of 2024, helped organize catered dinners with local restaurants. “They individually packaged each meal, which made it very easy for distribution,” says Mrs. James. “Because of the generosity of our community, we were able to stay under budget and make a difference for those in need in Norfolk.”

Among the restaurants that donated were Redwood Smoke Shack, Yorgos and Baja Grill. Once all of the meals were organized and delivered, First Presbyterian Church handed them out.

While this year was different than most, Ms. Atayeva felt it was important to continue the tradition of NEST week. “This year, of all years, it was most critical to be helping our marginalized and underserved communities,” says Ms. Atayeva. “I’ve been involved in NEST for the past three years and I’ve seen the impact we’ve had and I couldn’t just let this year go by without trying to help in a meaningful way.”

Mrs. James felt the same way, “As soon as I heard about NEST, I knew I wanted to get involved and serve the community. It’s been a great experience to learn more about Norfolk while supporting our community.” 

EVMS NEST chapter leaders:

Hannah James

Rena Atayeva

Kirstin Reed

Sarah Birk

Emery Cuellar

Abes Bautista Neughebauer