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The Gift of Giving: Alum Reflects on Service During a Pandemic

Lebanon Valley College graduate Michael Butcher has traveled the globe serving others.

Wanderlust–the strong desire to travel and explore the world. As an undergraduate student, Michael Butcher ’18 took advantage of serving abroad in Peru and studying abroad at Maastricht University. Since graduating from LVC with a degree in global studies, Butcher has continued to pursue his wanderlust and set out on several national and international adventures. From California to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, Butcher has truly embraced a global way of life while serving others. 

Recently, Butcher volunteered with the American Red Cross as a disaster shelter service associate in Redding, Calif. He assisted evacuees from the wildfires by completing daily tasks at the shelters, including registration, meals, housing, and disaster relief resources. He also traveled to Louisiana to assist people impacted by the hurricanes. In working with other volunteers, he lived the mission of the Red Cross, “to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.” 

The path to Butcher’s current position is one full of adventure and memories.

In his senior year at LVC, Butcher applied to several agencies under the Department of Homeland Security. While going through the application process, he continued exploring the world and expanding his global experiences.  “A week after graduation, I went on the College’s 2018 summer service trip to Puerto Rico,” said Butcher. “While there, I assisted with mangrove restoration to prevent flooding along coastal parts of the island.”

After returning from Puerto Rico, he was invited to the College by Jennifer Liedtka ’92, M’00, service and volunteerism coordinator, to share his experiences about the service trip. Following that presentation, Liedtka invited him to serve as the first LVC alumni leader for the College’s January 2019 service trip to the Dominican Republic with Outreach360. 

“After the trip, I spoke with Outreach360’s founder and CEO, Thomas Eklund, who offered me a long-term position,” said Butcher. “I went home for two weeks and decided to join the team.”  By serving as an Outreach, Leadership, and Education (OLÉ) Team Leader, he gained leadership and teamwork skills by preparing volunteers to teach English and Spanish to students in grades K-12. After serving for 18 months, he was sent home in March due to COVID-19.    

“The impact of this opportunity changed my world!” Butcher said. “The students, the volunteers, the community we lived in, and, of course, the other team members adopted the mission of Outreach360 'to inspire and empower people to reach their full potential and give back,'” Butcher said. “The friendships and bonds created will always be with me.”

Since returning to the U.S., Butcher has devoted his time to serving as much and as safely as he can. He helped pilot an online learning program for Outreach360, which has expanded their STEM program with support from LVC alum Brandon Roy ’20, a biochemistry & molecular biology major.

Looking back on his service opportunities during such a hectic time, Butcher is astonished by the strength and effectiveness the organizations exhibited. “I have such a unique perspective on the impact the pandemic has had on volunteer organizations,” said Butcher. “Outreach360 had to send staff home and cancel in-person programs but was able to completely change their method of providing service from in-person to virtual.”    

Due to the pandemic, fires, floods, and hurricanes, Butcher said the Red Cross needs "boots-on-the-ground volunteers" more than ever. "My three weeks as a volunteer impressed upon me the safety standards and protocols the Red Cross has in place.” It brings him much joy to feel safe enough to volunteer in person.

For those who are interested in serving and traveling, Butcher said, “I promise there are opportunities out there for you, whether it’s virtual or in-person you can make a difference.”


-- Parker Gallagher, Marketing & Communications Student Assistant