Publisher's note: The author of this post, Erin Ward, is a contributor to ECU News Services.
Katy Locke and Tara Kermiet hand a Purple Pantry bag to a student at the MCSC. Over 80 bags were handed out to students. | Photo: Cliff Hollis
Last week, East Carolina University Interim Chancellor Ron Mitchelson emailed a video to the university community about helping students who are facing displacement, unemployment and other challenges due to the coronavirus.
Since that announcement, Pirates near and far have raised more than $47,050 for student emergency funds.
"Our university culture is amazing in its ability to rise up to alleviate the negative impacts of this virus on our neediest students. These donations provide them with immediate resources so that they can successfully complete the academic year,"
The Student Emergency Fund provides direct support to students. Other groups such as the Students' Treasure Chest (STC), a student-run philanthropy organization, can also use the funds to help designate aid.
Since March 15, the Students' Treasure Chest has received 14 requests for COVID-related needs, although the demand is expected to increase significantly, said Lauren Thorn, associate dean of students and one of the STC advisors. Requests have been technology related, as some students lack access to a computer, printer or webcam for their online courses. Others are struggling to pay bills and make rent due to lost wages from unemployment.
Another resource, the Purple Pantry, distributed nearly 2,000 pounds of food in March in response to COVID-19. The group plans to have a mobile Purple Pantry visit off-campus apartments in the next week or so, Thorn said.
For donors who gave to the student emergency funds, Mitchelson's message spoke to their values of helping others in times of hardship.
Alumna Myra Johnson Powell '74, '89 of Wilson said she didn't hesitate to give. "My heart goes out to the students who may be hurting and away from home. In this unprecedented time, we should all err on the side of doing something good rather than not doing,"
Alumni Travis and Cassie Burt were moved to quickly make a donation as well. Last year, the couple established a professorship in cardiovascular sciences
after ECU's Dr. Mark Williams saved Travis' life with a triple bypass surgery.
"We know firsthand the amazing work and high-quality resources that ECU provides to the community. Its students are our future, and if they need help, we want to help them,"
Dr. Martha Engelke, who taught graduate and undergraduate students at the College of Nursing for 37 years, gave $1,000 to the Nursing Student Emergency Fund.
"I know that my friends and former colleagues are working hard to help students make it through the semester and on to graduation. As a retiree, I tried to think how I could help,"
Engelke said. "I know that most nursing students are not wealthy. Many of them were barely getting by and then COVID-19 happened. If my gift helps a Pirate nurse make it to the finish line, I will be happy and it will be the best money I have spent in a long time."