Inspired by Yo-Yo Ma, Zach Buttrick ’20 performs a free outdoor solo concert for a crowd of social-distancers. (Phoebe Beber-Frankel '20)
Inspired by Yo-Yo Ma, Zach Buttrick ’20 performs a free outdoor solo concert for a crowd of social-distancers.

Phoebe Beber-Frankel '20

As the pandemic ravages their communities, RE students give back

May 15, 2020

While many students are still mourning the loss of the second half of the semester, there are a handful of students who have looked beyond themselves to see how they can help their communities during this pandemic. Some students are raising money by selling items or starting a campaign, and others are using their individual talents and passions to help their communities. 

Maia Gold ‘20 and Mia Goldberg ‘20 are both passionate about art, and had established a website for young artists to sell their works earlier this year. When trying to find a way to help others during the COVID-19 crisis, the two realized that their site,, was the perfect platform to begin raising money for those in their community.

“I gathered many artists, most of them from Ransom to post their work on the website and sell them for Feeding the Grove,” Goldberg said.

What started out as “an online exhibition of Ransom student works,” as Goldberg put it, has become much more than that and has created a way for Goldberg and Gold to give back to the community while doing something they love.

While Goldberg and Gold have been giving back through art and creation, Talia Berler ‘20 has reached out to a community that is near and dear to her heart: her synagogue. It was especially on her mind as her younger brother was scheduled to become a Bar Mitzvah the last Saturday in March. Sadly, the event has had to be rescheduled due to the virus.

“I wanted to help older members of the community, and I reached out to [Temple Judea] to ask what they might need help with,” Berler said. 

When the Temple closed due to the virus and switched to live streamed services, there was widespread worry that many older congregants would have difficulty participating online. In response, Berler figured out a way to give them tech support. “[I provide] phone numbers of young people to be a kind of volunteer I.T. team for older members of the Temple trying to connect to services streamed on Zoom,” she said. “They call one of the numbers if they need help with something.”

Berler has no plans to expand the current program with Temple Judea, but she hopes that she is setting an example for others to do something within their own communities.

While Berler is helping people stay connected while staying inside their homes, Zach Buttrick ‘20 has created a way for groups to find entertainment outside while social distancing. 

Buttrick was originally inspired by the celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who has been giving virtual concerts from his living room, and called for others to do the same as part of what he dubbed #SongsofComfort. Buttrick felt compelled to join in, but he has gone beyond the call.

Buttrick has been performing 15- to 20-minute violin concerts on the streets outside people’s homes since March 23rd. What started as his mom firing off a text to a popular Key Biscayne group chat to see if anyone wanted a private concert has grown far beyond what anyone expected. He was featured on Mrs. Townsend’s Twitter, and was written about in Key News and in the Miami Herald. “I honestly didn’t think it was [going to] get this far. I thought I was going to perform maybe twice,” Buttrick said.

Phoebe Beber-Frankel '20

Just over a month after he started, Buttrick has performed over seventy times, and has traveled beyond Key Biscayne to perform in Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, Miami Beach, Miami Shores, and as far as Pinecrest. Even with the unexpected high influx of requests, Buttrick is happy to help out his community and the rest of the Miami area. “It’s a nice service to the community, and it always brings a smile to someone’s face,” he said.

One of his favorite performances to date was a surprise. An 80-year old was shocked and elated to learn that her daughter had sent Buttrick to perform outside her door. Even though it was an audience of one, her reaction made Buttrick feel that all his efforts were worth it. “It is rewarding to help others,” Buttrick said.

His performances even comforted a man at the biggest concert he has performed at yet, which drew around fifty people — all of whom were social distancing. “One man stood up to say, ‘I want to thank you personally for doing this as my father passed away earlier today, and this is really nice,’” Buttrick said.

Buttrick’s ability to brighten the days of others even at their darkest hour has filled him with relief, and he does not see an end to his outreach any time soon. “I just want to make sure that everyone who wants a performance can get one,” he said.

If audience members try to pay Buttrick, he asks them instead to make a donation to the Key Biscayne Community Foundation or Feeding South Florida.

While RE students like Berler and Buttrick focus their outreach efforts on the city, one RE student has gone outside Miami to help people in El Salvador, a community she recognizes as her own. Isabella Henriquez ‘21 was supposed to spend the second semester of her junior year attending the American school in El Salvador as part of an abroad program that allowed her to do community and volunteer work. She chose El Salvador as it is where her entire extended family lives, but her time there was cut short due to the worldwide pandemic. 

After being forced to leave a country to which she had gotten so much more attached, Henriquez decided that she wanted to do whatever she could to help El Salvador flatten the curve. “My project is based on the idea that the local ‘maquilas,’ or the sewing centers of El Salvador where many men and women continue to work to make a living, will make masks,” Henriquez said.  

To do this, Henriquez has started a GoFundMe page so that people can donate to help her efforts. She has currently raised $3,000 of a $20,000 goal, and has been partnering with others in an attempt to raise more. “With the money I raise, I will have these masks distributed among the poorest communities and the citizens who haven’t been able to work,” Henriquez said. 

She has dedicated much of her quarantine time to raising money and getting the masks in the hands of the people who need them the most. “People are dying not of the virus, but from hunger due to the halt of jobs and production, and their last priority is to buy a mask to stop infection,” she said.

Whether it is in their own homes or hundreds of miles away, RE students are finding ways to give back to the people and the communities that they hold near and dear to their hearts, and are encouraging others to spread the word on each of their projects and to do what they can from their own homes. “I’d encourage everyone to reach out to the communities they’re a part of and ask how they can help people at risk,” Berler said.


About the Contributor
Photo of Phoebe Beber-Frankel
Phoebe Beber-Frankel '20, Sports & Arts Editor

Phoebe is the Sports & Arts Editor for the Catalyst, and has been a contributor since her junior year.

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