Thankful students receive emergency funds thanks to donors

Shelley Howard, left, and Destiny Proffett.
Shelley Howard, left, and Destiny Proffett.

Shelley Howard is busy. She has a child in fifth grade, one in seventh grade and one who is a freshman in college. She has a full-time position at a child care center and returned to college in September to pursue a master’s degree in Criminal Justice at Detroit Mercy.

As the coronavirus worked its way across the United States, her employer closed for safety reasons and she found herself without a job. This was weeks before Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a shelter-in-place order closing all nonessential businesses.

“I didn’t know what to do, with my three kids and no job and, at that point, I didn’t know what to do about unemployment,” Howard said.

She went to the Detroit Mercy website to see if the University had any information or options to help students.

It was there she read about the University’s COVID-19 Student Emergency Fund, set up to help students who suddenly found themselves in financial difficulties as the coronavirus strengthened its grip on Michigan.

“I was so glad to see that because it was getting kind of rocky,” she said. “To see that it was available and to receive the funds was such a blessing.”

Student Affairs Coordinator Christina Socha and Dean of Students Monica Williams are co-chairs of the committee that distributes the funds. Howard was in the first wave of students who received help.

Socha said the first round of 21 students who applied were granted a total of $10,222. As of April 21, an additional 22 students had applied and the committee was working through their requests.

Destiny Proffett is finishing her freshman year. A ReBUILD student, she is double-majoring in Biology and Philosophy with eyes on medical school. Due to her home circumstances, she was unable to move home when students were encouraged to do so. She is living in the dorms, but dietary and health issues restrict what she can eat, and she needs to buy her own food.

“I am doing what I can with other resources, but it hasn’t been enough,” Proffett said. “These funds will help buy me food.”

By far, most students have asked for the full $500 allowed through the fund. They are asked to choose from a number of reasons why they are requesting funds including food insecurity, health and medical expenses, essential utilities, technology to allow them to participate in online classes and emergency housing, most say they need the funds because of the loss of their job.

“The students are incredibly grateful,” Socha said. “It’s clear there is a major need and the University is happy to be able to come through for its students in a time of need.”

Socha has a full summer class schedule and will remain in the dorms for the forseeable future.

Howard is also taking advantage of other programs to make ends meet and she’s receiving help from family members. “I’m holding my own,” she said.

She is still busy. “Now I’m teacher and Mommy and principal and social worker and lunch lady,” she said, laughing. And she finds strength in her faith.

“I know a lot of people in way worse situations than I am,” Howard said. “I hope they know about this program, because it’s a huge help.”

At present, we have more need than we do donations. To contribute to this fund, please visit https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/EmergencyFund. 

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