Campus & Community

Red's Good Vibes: Meghan McGrath '21MSN Launches Nonprofit in Time for COVID-19

After her brother, Robert “Red” McGrath, passed away several years ago, Meghan McGrath '21MSN was inspired to keep his spirit alive, fondly noting that he would always “go the extra mile” for others. Together with her sister Caitlin McGrath-Levesque and brother Michael Dupont, McGrath recently founded Red’s Good Vibes, a Portsmouth nonprofit to help less-fortunate members of the community. They didn’t realize how soon—or urgently—their efforts would be needed. 

In Portsmouth, like so many other cities and towns, the pandemic paired with the toll of social isolation and economic collapse created the perfect storm of crisis. Both McGrath and her sister are school nurses and educators, and when Portsmouth schools closed in March due to COVID-19, they quickly identified students and their families with food insecurity issues. Red’s Good Vibes was quickly up and running, coordinating home deliveries of much-needed groceries.

Megan McGrath collecting supplies for Red's Good Vibes

McGrath is pragmatic about the outreach and stresses that there's no shame in asking for help. Anonymous food requests come through Red’s Facebook page and the team quickly follows up for more details: how many in the household, children’s ages, delivery address. Twice weekly, and with careful safety precautions, they coordinate and deliver groceries on porches and doorsteps, plus occasional emergency visits “when the cupboards are bare.”

In the past three weeks, Red’s has delivered groceries to over 1,000 people. On Friday, April 3 alone, the group had 45 scheduled deliveries, a figure that McGrath expects to rise in the coming weeks.

The stories of others in need motivate her: families in crisis unsure of where to get help; adults unable to visit elderly parents; and neighbors ordering for others, concerned that shame prevents them from reaching out. Yet she also finds comfort in other examples of the community rallying: personal donations; local businesses providing gift cards and supplies; strangers offering to make deliveries; and the local food pantry now coordinating efforts.

“People are doing this on a small scale — knocking on a neighbor’s door, slipping a note, or calling, ‘I’m going to the store, can I get you something?’” she says. “While this crisis is horrible, we do get to see the positive side of humanity, which is awesome.”

McGrath finishes her first online Family Nurse Practitioner term this spring. Balancing Red’s Good Vibes with her coursework has enabled her to focus on becoming a nursing generalist, pivoting and responding to needs that arise in the moment.

“[I am] more convinced now than ever that this was the absolute right choice for me,” McGrath says, “because I think it gives the best opportunity to help the widest range of people.”

McGrath chose Simmons because of its nursing reputation as well as the flexibility of the online program, and she notes instructors Renee Bauer, Donovan Early, and Debra Whisenant have been particularly influential. 

“I have been so pleased, so impressed with my classmates, the faculty, the administrative staff. [They have been] so great, so accessible, and so willing to answer my questions. It’s such a great community, and I think unless you’re in it, you can’t really understand that, but it really is wonderful.”

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