More than $240,000 raised to help SIU Carbondale students
CARBONDALE, Ill. — As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, many college students struggle to continue their education. Some lack adequate technology or internet access to make the sudden transition to online learning. Others lost jobs due to the closure of businesses or can’t work due to the closure of schools, putting stress on budgets for necessities like food, medication, rent and diapers.
Southern Illinois University Carbondale has long had an emergency fund to aid students in crisis, but the pandemic quickly depleted available funding. That’s when the SIU Foundation, which raises funds to benefit the university, turned to the university’s alumni and friends for help.
Since the foundation’s first appeal on March 24, more than 1,000 donors have contributed more than $240,000 to the Saluki Cares Student Emergency Fund. The fund provides financial assistance for needs not covered by traditional financial aid or scholarships. Students apply for support by going to salukicares.siu.edu.
“The funds raised have been used to help students meet their physical and financial needs,” said Lori Stettler, vice chancellor for student affairs. “The virus knows no boundaries, and our students are no exception. They are experiencing things like homelessness, food insecurity, inability to pay rent and utilities, securing medications and taking care of their dependents.”
Thanks to the donations, SIU has been able to respond to more than 2,000 requests from students. The university has distributed hundreds of boxes of food and more than 100 laptops; offered to cover internet access; helped students who have children by supplying diapers, baby food and other infant care items; and processed more than 300 emergency fund requests for rent, utilities, medicine, books and transportation.
“The generosity of our alumni has been amazing,” Stettler said. “This outpouring of money, food and love brings to life the saying ‘Once a Saluki, always a Saluki.’ I am proud of our alumni who reached deep into their hearts and pockets to assist our students. We are all stronger together.”
Many of the donations have come in the form of items for the Saluki Food Pantry. There are many examples. Walgreens donated more than $1,500 worth of toiletries, baby food and diapers thanks to 1991 alumnus Lisa Badgley, vice president of corporate relations. John Kabat, a two-degree alumnus and retired teacher, worked with his FFA students to donate and package more than 2,700 meals to the pantry.
Jo Lagerhausen, who graduated in 1993, took a different approach. A member of the Carbondale in the ’80s and ’90s Facebook group, she posted a message offering to make SIU-themed masks for the first 72 alumni making a donation of least a $5. It wasn’t long before all 72 masks had been claimed.
The SIU Foundation itself identified a $90,000 gift that was unrestricted, meaning that it could be used for any purpose, to support the fund. Fifty thousand is being used to match donations of others.
The foundation’s campaign was a team effort, according to Rae Goldsmith, chief executive office.
Chancellor John M. Dunn and men’s basketball coach Bryan Mullins asked for help from alumni and donors. John Pollitz, dean of university libraries, appealed to SIU faculty and staff. Members of the SIU Foundation board were among many individuals who reached out to their own Saluki Networks, and foundation development staff connected personally with donors. Even the Marching Salukis were involved, thanking donors with a remote version of the university’s fight song.
“Everyone is living up to the theme of the emergency fund effort: ‘Salukis helping Salukis,” said Goldsmith. “Our goal is to help students stay on track to graduation. Our donors are making that possible.”
Goldsmith added that the foundation will continue to seek support for the emergency fund.
“Given the uncertainty associated with the pandemic, we anticipate that the needs of students will continue to grow,” she said.
Donations can be made at salukifunder.siu.edu.