Blake Street Towers is a Lewiston Housing Authority community located in downtown Lewiston and has had consistent connections to the Bates community for a long time. When I was a first-year student at Bates, I began volunteering for the weekly “Blake Street Brunches” program, during which Bates students go to BST every Sunday to cook brunch for the residents. On a typical Sunday, we’d make 30-35 meals, which consisted of anything from french toast sticks to scrambled eggs. Students would hand-deliver each plate to the residents’ tables and then converse with them throughout the morning. I was fortunate enough to become the Community Outreach Fellow in charge of coordinating brunches in the winter of 2020, and we had some wonderful brunches prior to leaving campus last March due to COVID-19. 

Unfortunately, the pandemic has halted our Sunday brunch program; however, I have had overwhelming interest from my peers about connecting to the Blake Street Towers community remotely, and our partners there have been great to work with. We have created a few different programs to connect students with Blake Street Towers residents during the pandemic, including check-in phone calls, voter registration calls, and a program we’ve entitled, “Adopt-a-Tenant.”

The idea behind “Adopt-a-Tenant” is to provide a tangible way to connect Bates students to BST residents during this isolating time of social distancing and remote interactions. Over the course of four Sundays during the fall semester, Bates students are gathering in outside campus spaces (masked and socially distanced, of course) to write notes to BST residents and to assemble care packages full of essentials, plus a few fun items. 

Our first “Adopt-a-Tenant” program was a big success! I received a wonderful thank you note from the recipients of the packages, and I am optimistic that the program will continue to bring joy and comfort to the residents of BST throughout the semester. As much as I wish we could be back in the Blake Street kitchen, I feel very thankful that we are able to connect with this community remotely, and I am unbelievably grateful for all the Bates volunteers who have been part of these programs so far.

– Annika Mirchandani ‘23