Like so many others whose lives who have been turned upside down by COVID-19, Sara never thought she would have to ask for help. She and her husband had always been able to provide for their family, and she looked forward to watching her three children grow up in her hometown.
But Sara, a custodial supervisor for Facilities Management at Colorado State University for three years, suddenly found herself in unfamiliar territory when her husband was laid off from a local roofing company. Bills began to pile up, and she was having to make tough choices.
“I made sure to pay the rent, but I hadn’t paid the utilities bill and we were running low on groceries,” she said. “I couldn’t drive my car because I couldn’t make the insurance payment. I really didn’t know where to turn.”
That’s when Sara (not her real name) heard about CSU Cares, the unique campus program set up to help employees during difficult times. Launched in 2012 in response to the High Park Fire that burned more than 250 homes west of Fort Collins, CSU Cares uses donated funds to provide grants to families in need.
Over the past eight years, CSU Cares has awarded $115,940 to approximately 80 recipients in emergency situations created by disasters like wildfires, floods and hurricanes. Awards can be as much as $2,000, with the average grant $1,450.
“CSU Cares is a great example of Rams helping Rams,” said Maggie Walsh, co-chair of the program. “We have helped lots of people get back on their feet during extremely challenging times, and the best part is that all of the funds are donated. This truly is a grassroots program that has a tremendous impact on our campus.
“Some CSU employees have been hit hard financially by COVID-19 – the loss of a partner’s job, loss of their own second job, or unexpected expenses – and need help to get through the pandemic. CSU Cares can help provide some relief,” she added.
Walsh said the committee has received a significant number of applications for the grants due to hardships created by the pandemic. She worked directly with Sara to help her through the application process.
“I had not heard of CSU Cares, but Maggie really made me feel comfortable when I reached out,” Sara said. “Maggie really helped me see that asking for help to pay the utilities, buy groceries and pay my car insurance was OK, that people were there to help. I was raised to think that if you don’t need help, don’t take it – but we really needed some help.”
Walsh said the program is open to all employees facing urgent needs. And she wanted to remind everyone that donations are always welcome – and badly needed. Employees are encouraged to use payroll deduction to support CSU Cares.
“I can honestly say I never thought my family would face anything like this,” Sara said. “I truly appreciate what all of the donors do – not just for me but everyone who has been helped. My wish is that one day I can repay this grant and help out someone else in need.”