‘Our community is rallying together’

‘Our community is rallying together’

Rochester alumni and friends around the world are helping to keep health care workers safe, advance COVID-19 research, and support students with emergency needs

Box with a Scott Millar Salon label on it

The broad community has donated thousands of in-kind items to support the University.

In response to challenges arising from COVID-19, University of Rochester alumni, students, and friends have been reaching out to help. By mid-March, the University established two COVID-19 emergency funds—one to support the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and the other to help all students with urgent needs—and the response has been remarkable.

By mid-April, more than 700 donors have contributed more than $400,000. These donations span $10 to $100,000, the latter being a single gift that came in from an anonymous donor. Gifts have been made by students, parents, alumni, community members, and organizations such as the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation.

Additionally, hundreds of people and companies have made thousands of in-kind donations—from boxes of latex gloves to dozens of hospital beds to bins full of face masks to pallets of personal protective equipment (PPE).

“Our community is rallying together to help our frontline health care providers, to advance our COVID-19 research, and to support our students,” says Senior Vice President of Advancement Tom Farrell ’88, ’90W. “People are demonstrating how much they care about the University and our future. They are living our motto, Meliora.”

URMC COVID-19 Emergency Fund

URMC is drawing on the new COVID-19 emergency fund to support its care providers and the patients they serve. For example, the fund is being used to provide essential medical supplies, support child care programs for frontline staff, launder scrubs, and even cover the cost of hotel rooms so staff who have been exposed to COVID patients can be isolated from their families.

Additionally, the fund will help support URMC’s COVID-related research efforts. With decades of leadership in infectious disease, human immunology, and vaccine development, URMC scientists and clinicians are at the forefront of the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

UR Medicine Home Care’s Meal on Wheels program has benefitted, too. During the pandemic, the community has given nearly $90,000 to help deliver more than 1,100 meals to 900 of Rochester’s most vulnerable, with more people being added every day.

“Over the last few weeks, we have seen such a dramatic increase in the need for our services,” says Margaret Schweizer, director for Meals on Wheels in Monroe County. “This means we need even more donations—so we can get more food—and more volunteers.”

In addition to financial support, the broader University community has responded with many in-kind gifts. For example, Irondequoit Home Depot donated 120 respirators, Scott Miller Salon provided boxes of gloves, and Sherwin Williams supplied a variety of PPE. Collectively, Federal Express, Tai Chi Bubble Tea, and the Harley School donated more than 15,000 masks. Honeoye Falls Distillery has shifted production gears and is now making hand sanitizer for local hospitals, including those in the UR Medicine network. One local dentist gave 100 N95 masks, a professional tailor made 400 cloth face-masks, and many groups have formed virtual sewing circles and are donating handmade masks by the hundreds.

Student Emergency Fund

pile of amazon prime boxes on moving cart

Getting ready to restock the student food pantry on the River Campus.

More than 700 students, who for a variety of reasons cannot return home during this crisis, are now living on the River Campus, including those from Eastman School of Music. About 80 percent of those who remain are international students. Others received an exemption to remain due to personal circumstances.

Molly Jolliff, director of international student engagement and associate director of advising services, notes how important the fund is to support students now, whether they remain on campus or have returned home.

“We have been using—and continue to use—the fund to help students travel home, to cover temporary storage costs, and to obtain the laptops they need for online learning,” she says. “We also draw on it to help add UR dining dollars to the accounts of those students are on campus now, many of whom use our dining services as well as our food pantry.”

Jolliff adds that summer will be a time of increased need for many of the residential students. “More services will be unavailable in the summer, so the students could need more help,” she says. She underscores that the financial aid that many high need students receive during the academic year does not extend into the summer. “This makes it increasingly important to have a resource like the emergency fund,” she adds. “We need a way to support those who don’t have any other options.”

International community rallies

woman giving a thumbs up behind a large box

Parents and alumni in China sent more than 100,000 masks to the University.

In early April, Evans Lam ’83, ’84S (MBA) was actively engaging Rochester’s alumni and parent community in China. On China’s social networking platform, WeChat, he posted, “the UR is so emphatic and caring for our international students” and “we are all partners in education.” Lam—a University trustee and chair of the George Eastman Circle, the University’s annual giving leadership society—even personally allocated $25,000 to the student emergency fund.

This University’s network of parents and alumni in China responded generously and quickly. By mid-April, the University’s China Parent Network Committee arranged an initial donation of 3,000 face masks for immediate distribution to students who were still on campus. The network then called upon the broader Chinese parent community—comprised of about 1,800 people—to rally more support for the University.

Collectively, that larger group raised nearly $30,000 for the University’s COVID-19 student emergency fund. About a week later, they launched an additional effort via WeChat that raised $43,000, which they used to purchase 100,000 surgical face masks for the Medical Center’s frontline health care staff and for students who remain on campus.

Why they donated

“You are all risking your lives (and lives of your families), not to mention the very long hours you are putting in. We wish you all to remain safe, and pray that this is over soon.”
—Gary Levy, local Rochester resident

“As an alumna and parent of a current senior, I feel the loss of Spring Semester, Commencement, and this highly anticipated special time very acutely . . . I donated to the Student Emergency Fund in honor of the 2020 senior class because while my senior is home and safe, a number of University students have the same sadness and disappointment we all feel, but they are also dealing with additional burdens many of us can’t imagine. I hope this donation alleviates some of the uncertainties and concerns those students are experiencing.
—Heather L. Moynihan ’93, P’20

“The U of R taught and inspired me to live my life by our motto Meliora. In times of crisis, and especially during this COVID-19 pandemic, there are many people who are scared, worried, and suffering. If I can make anyone’s life in this unprecedented time of stress just a bit ‘ever better’ by supporting their need to rejoin their family, alleviate food insecurity, or provide a laptop or internet access so that they can continue their studies virtually, then I know that I have fulfilled my obligation.”
—Noah D. Pizmony-Levy Drezner, ’00

“Thank you very much for supporting our child in this hard time. We are proud of the way the University of Rochester is coming together to prepare for and address this health crisis”
—Lei Zhou P’20

We all can do something to help. Consider donating supplies or foodgiving blood (URMC is facing a critical shortage), making a gift to our URMC COVID-19 emergency fund, and supporting our student emergency fund.

Kristine Thompson, April 2020



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