Touro University campaign helps raise funds for fire victim students

Vallejo Times-Herald
by Rachel Raskin-Zrihen
11/22/2017

Touro University students impacted by the devastating North Bay wildfires will benefit from the school’s Giving Tuesday Campaign this year, which includes a new wrinkle, school officials said.

“Giving Tuesday is an annual national fundraiser that helps various organizations with financial support,” officials said. “This year, our focus will be on the Student Emergency Fund — money that helps our students during times they need it most. This need was clearly demonstrated with the recent wildfires, where several of our students were displaced and even lost their personal belongings to the fire.”

This year, Touro is combining Giving Tuesday with the power of social media and collaboration by partnering with local community members, and its own Touro faculty, students, and alumni, to bring awareness of this year’s campaign, spokeswoman Andrea Garcia said.

“Internal and external ‘celebrities will do a one-hour ‘takeover’ of our social media Facebook page, where they will advise the community of their work and initiatives, while supporting our fund-raising efforts,” she said. “We want our followers to hear and read about the great things our ‘celebrities’ are doing in the community. Together, we can help make an impact in Vallejo, Solano County, and beyond.” 

This is Touro’s fourth year doing the Giving Tuesday campaign, Provost and Chief Operating Officer Marilyn Hopkins said.

“We started four years ago capitalizing on the national moment, making the Tuesday after Thanksgiving to do something more meaningful than shopping,” she said. “We didn’t (invent the idea) but we were aware of it. But, we thought of coming up with some important thing and make that our focus.”

The first year, the school raised funds to restore the old flag on Mare Island, where Touro is located, Hopkins said. 

“The next year we looked at service projects in the community, and we went with diabetes prevention, which has grown significantly since,” Hopkins said. “That year we raised the funds to expand diabetes prevention into our weekly student-run free clinic in South Vallejo. Last year, our students came to us from the medical school concerned about stress among students in the helping professions. So, they created a meditation garden space behind the old hospital, with the funds they raised.”

This year, school officials selected the Student Emergency Fund — a pool of money started years ago for short-term loans for students who experience unexpected emergency expenses, she said. 

“This year, with the wildfires — 26 students were impacted,” Hopkins said. “Some were on rotation in the area, and were staying there. One in particular, the house where she was renting a room, was totally destroyed. She’s OK, and everyone in the house was OK, but she lost all her possessions.”

Other students were evacuated and had to relocate, she said.

“It was very difficult to find places to live, competing with area residents who’d lost their homes, who were also looking,” she said. “We’re helping with whatever we can — helping with gas, if they have to commute long distances, putting some up short-term in hotels. We did that also in 2014, after the earthquake.” 

School officials drew from the Student Emerency Fund for these expenditures, which are sometimes presented as grants. Donations to this fund are tax deductible, and help officials help students in emergencies like these, Hopkins said.

The “celebrity” social media “takeover’ was Garcia’s idea, she said.

“The celebrity/ community leaders guest host on social media — to take over our Facebook page,” Hopkins said. “We hope they’ll mention our Student Emergency Fund fundraiser while they’re doing that. But, they can talk about whatever they want to for the hour. This is new for us.” 

Touro’s social media sites can be found at tu.edu, where one can click on the Facebook icon, she said.

“This is a new concept, and we’ll see how it goes,” she said.

Contact Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at (707) 553-6824.

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