When the pandemic shut down the country last year, former Oregon State women’s basketball player Mikayla Pivec, ’20, was determined to make a difference and bring together two of her passions: Healthy eating and serving others.
After teaming up with Professor and OSU Moore Family Center Director Siew Sun Wong, Mikayla’s vision became a reality, and the Selfless Servings project was created. The group’s mission is to bring fresh, healthy and locally prepared foods to community health care workers, a profession deeply affected by the effects of the pandemic.
Since delivering their first meal, Selfless Servings has served over 1,300 local meals in the Corvallis area and raised more than $14,000 in donations. With the last meal delivered in August 2021, the team celebrated its success.
The origins of Selfless Servings
Mikayla enrolled in a class with CPHHS Professor Siew Sun Wong to innovate a project and ended up being the only student enrolled. Amanda Tran, Siew Sun’s undergraduate mentee, was also enthusiastic about helping. Together, the three set out to center the project on physician burnout and ways the community could support health care staff.
During research questionaries, most health care staff noted they lacked time to make or access healthy foods while working.
As the pandemic began, the team observed the impact on local restaurants that struggled from not serving people indoors and recognized the increased stress placed on health care staff from an overflow of patients.
“I wanted to use my platform as a prominent student-athlete in the community to respond in a positive way toward the difficulties that COVID-19 presented,” Mikayla says. “Doctors have a high suicide and burnout rate among all professions, twice that of the general population and higher than military workers.”
“It’s easy to forget that people burnout easily, and that is especially prominent within the health care field. The pressure and stress that a health care worker faces during a pandemic are more than anybody should have,” says Amanda, a health management and policy student in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences.
Memories in the making
In June 2020, the group began ordering meals from locally owned restaurants and delivered them weekly to over 1,000 doctors, nurses, pharmacists and others in the Corvallis health care community. The meals were purchased with funds donated by local community members, many of whom are inspired by Mikayla’s selfless spirit on and off the basketball court.
“One of the most memorable moments of this project was having Dominic and Barb Cusimano and Linda and Jim Whiteman step into larger roles within Selfless Servings,” Mikayla says. “Seeing these four basketball fans continue to be connected to me and the project was heartwarming. Basketball connected us initially, and we were able to remain connected through community volunteering efforts.”
In 2021, the team continued delivering meals to health care workers and expanded to other frontline workers such as firefighters, EMTs and police officers. Their final delivery was made to Oregon State University’s Student Health Services in August, with the entire Selfless Servings team, volunteers and OSU women’s basketball team members present to celebrate.
“This project has given me experience and connections to people who I admire and respect. I plan to find more ways to reform the health care system, and this is one step that will take me there,” Amanda says.
Amanda will graduate in spring 2022 and hopes to create more projects that benefit the community in the future.
Mikayla’s next step is playing basketball professionally for Cadi La Seu in La Seu D’Urgell, Spain, and she aspires to play in the WNBA. After basketball, she hopes to become a pediatric cancer doctor.
For more information, visit the Selfless Servings website at www.selflessservings.org.