Helping Hands provides relief to students affected by COVID-19

Helping Hands provides relief to students affected by COVID-19

The Coronavirus has created hardship for Georgia College students, making it extremely difficult for them to fund basic necessities.
Georgia College has received more than 260 requests from students needing financial assistance. 
For many, losing a job means they won’t be able to pay for food, medicine, rent or utilities. Others can’t go home because the risk is too great to their families who have compromised immune systems.
The Helping Hands Hardship Fund was originally conceived by the Student Government Association (SGA) to help students with unusual situations who need a helping hand. With the COVID-19 crisis, University Advancement, Student Life and the Office of Financial Aid, came together and made a decision to utilize the fund to aid students, who face significant financial hardships now and in the coming months.
“The biggest need we saw was for money to buy food,” said Dr. Shawn Brooks, vice president for Student Life. “We had students report they were only eating once a day, because they didn’t have money to buy food. One student wrote about being down to her last box of cereal.”

So far, approximately more than $22,000 has been raised for the Helping Hands Hardship fund. This amount is also supplemented by $5,500 that was originally raised for the fund when it was established. 
“The amount of need is immeasurable,” said Dr. Shawn Brooks. “Most students are asking for only a portion of their overall need, as they know funds are limited.”
To date, students’ needs have significantly exceeded the amount of money raised to help address the distress.  

“The Division of Student Life is working to identify and immediately take action to resolve the most pressing issues, and to find aid for all of our students,” said Monica Delisa, vice president, University Advancement. 
The idea of Helping Hands stemmed from the COVID-19 pandemic and the related move to online education for GC students.
“Dr. Shawn Brooks and Student Life recognized that some GC students may be facing extreme hardships, because they were no longer employed in local businesses, did not have access to technology needed in an online environment or couldn’t afford the costs associated with moving from campus housing to other housing,” said Delisa. “Student Life reached out to Advancement and the Office of Financial Aid, and we identified this fund as being setup for exactly this type of crisis.”
The team predicted student need would be larger than funds already in the account, so they began the campaign to add funds through donations. 

"Giving to the Helping Hands initiative is purposeful giving."
– Pam Booker

Student Life distributed a form to all GC students to self-identify if they need aid. The Office of Financial Aid works with Student Life to identify and qualify students who need assistance and award financial help.
“In these uncertain times, having a sense of financial security will enable students to engage fully in the online learning process and to succeed,” said Delisa. “It is always our goal in University Advancement to ensure that our students do not have to worry about finances, that they can concentrate on being the best students and future community leaders they can be.”

Donors have until May 1 to make their Helping Hands gift. Any size donation is appreciated. 
“A measure of a community is not found when things are going well,” said Brooks. “Rather, the measure of a community is how they respond when things are not going well or when there is a crisis.” 
He applauded students, alumni and friends of Georgia College for contributing to students’ well-being. Some students have provided food and shelter to other students; alumni and friends have provided financial assistance. Everyone who helps can make a huge difference in the lives of students. Brooks has received emails from students, extending their gratitude to individuals who contributed to the fund.
“My biggest hope is that we have been able to make a difference in students’ lives with the Helping Hands fund,” said Brooks. “Like everyone else, I hope and pray for a quick end to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“Giving to the Helping Hands initiative is purposeful giving,” said Pam Booker, ’97, president-elect of the Alumni Board of Directors and leader-in-residence of Leadership programs. 

“Supporting GC students during this time displays unity. It shows students they are not alone and promotes perseverance by motivating them to continue striving in the midst of unforeseeable challenges. It also demonstrates leadership, setting an example for students to emulate when the situation is reversed. Lastly, it reinforces the Georgia College culture by strengthening a ‘sense of community’ culture and providing physical and emotional relief for students and administrators.”

“Georgia College students, nor many of us, have ever experienced the level of uncertainty that exists today,” Booker said. “The emotional and physical toll of instability can be unimaginable. My goal, as an alumna and supporter of the CrowdThunder campaign, is to simply do what I can to contribute toward removing obstacles to student success during this time of crisis. It is my desire that, by supporting this campaign, my gift, encourages and instills hope in these students.”  

To join the effort to help Georgia College students suffering financial hardships, visit: Be a part of the conversation by following us on Facebook and Instagram: @georgiacollegealumni. Together, we are one. We are #GCUnited.