Staying Connected During COVID

Photos of people on Zoom

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone was looking for ways to feel less isolated and to maintain connections with their loved ones. Zoom birthday parties and digital happy hours quickly became the norm, but for two groups of Bridgewater College alumni, they gained something unexpected during the pandemic: reconnections with their classmates.

In July 2020, Mike Tokarz ’79 decided to organize a weekly Zoom happy hour for BC alumni who lived in the same residence hall—”THC” (third Heritage center)—in the late ’70s and early ’80s. He enlisted the help of Ted Barker ’79 in reaching out to alumni. The number of invitees grew every week, ultimately reaching about 20, with weekly participants ranging from eight to 12. Some of the participants hadn’t seen each other since graduation decades ago and were excited to catch up with one another. The alumni take turns giving updates and sharing photos of their lives. The group abides by only one ground rule: no politics.

“There are definitely some people I haven’t seen since Bridgewater,” says Neal Mohlmann ‘80. “But voices never change. It’s just nice to hear their voice.”

According to Barker, the group has never missed a week—not even during the holidays.

“Most of these guys have been close friends for more than 40 years,” Barker says. “There’s something truly special about Bridgewater College to begin with, and how that group of guys came together at that point in time.”

Members live all over the country, with one alumnus, Patrick “Whim” Toothe ‘83, joining the call from his home in the Bahamas.

“You might go years without seeing each other, but when you get back together you talk like it’s yesterday,” Barker says. “The mark of true friends.”

Lauren Kondor Grove ‘08, Jennifer Midgette ‘08, Abby Morris ‘09 and Colleen Schwind ’10, all members of the BC women’s lacrosse team, have been meeting virtually through the app Houseparty since the start of the pandemic. The group video conferences every Sunday to catch up and play games like Uno.

“It’s something every week to look forward to,” Midgette says.

Pre-pandemic, the four would reunite a couple of times a year for events such as Homecoming at BC and send occasional texts. But the COVID-19 lockdown meant increased opportunities to connect. They have talked about everything during their Sunday sessions: the pandemic, work, marriage, children, dating, pets. The consistent communication—the group has never missed a week—has led to stronger relationships.

“We laugh, we reminisce, we talk about our daily life,” Schwind says. “It’s just good, solid connection. Even though it’s through a video chat, I’ve felt so much closer to these girls for the last year.”

The group is planning an in-person girls weekend in June. They booked an AirBnB outside of Williamsburg, Va., and already have one activity planned: to play Uno in person.