Grocery money. A plane ticket home. Utility bills. A one-time rent payment.
These are just a few of the reasons UNC Greensboro’s Class of 1967 created the SAFE (Student Assistance Fund for Emergencies) endowment during their 50th reunion. They wanted to provide a ready “safety net” where 100 percent of the money in the fund would go to students who suddenly faced unexpected, one-time needs that could jeopardize their higher education goals.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, such student needs became more pronounced and widespread as students coped with the loss of employment or resources. Members of UNCG’s Advancement division knew requests to the SAFE fund would become much more frequent. They put out an emergency call to UNCG alumni and friends to help augment the fund, and many stepped up immediately with gifts large and small. But one donor decided to go even further and recently provided $150,000 to the SAFE fund.
“The donor is a long-time supporter of UNCG. When it became known we had students who were going without food, the donor became very passionate about doing something immediately,” says Mary Swantek, an associate director of development. “The donor prefers to remain anonymous but hopes this gift can help students in need now and will inspire others to give.”
This gift and the others that have been coming in steadily since the call went out have been greatly appreciated by students, says Dr. Cathy Akens, vice chancellor for student affairs.
“Our students are dedicated to putting in the work to complete their degrees and graduate, but there are times when an unanticipated crisis or hardship occurs,” Akens says. “Without the available resources, these sudden events might derail students from their goals. The SAFE fund has allowed our team to provide some relief to students who are experiencing food insecurity, housing insecurity, loss of income, a family crisis, and more. The generous gifts made by our donors will enable us to support more students and help eliminate roadblocks on their path to graduation.”
In the past few weeks, the Dean of Students Office has distributed more than $10,000 from the SAFE fund and is in the process of distributing $50,000 more. In addition, $49,857 was recently added to the fund by the UNC System. The funds are used quickly because there are so many students in need right now.
Since the call went out in late March for contributions to the SAFE fund, 214 donors have provided more than $174,000.
Anyone wishing to make a gift to the SAFE fund can do so at go.uncg.edu/helpstudentsnow.
Story by David Pesci, University Advancement