Columbia College has been blessed with thousands of donors over its nearly 170-year history, and when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, those donors continued to support the college in amazing ways.

“It started with the fact that we know one thing: Columbia College cares,” said Suzanne Rothwell, the college’s vice president of Advancement. “We take care of each other, our loved ones, our communities and our world, and we knew our students and faculty would face new challenges as they navigate the pandemic.”

CC Cares logo
Friends raised more than $18,000 for the CC Cares Emergency Fund, which were used to directly support immediate student needs.

By March 30, the CC Cares Emergency Fund for Student Support was open for receiving donations, and as of June 30, the college had raised more than $18,000. All gifts to the fund addressed immediate needs such as:

  • Technology support for our mission-critical virtual learning platform
  • Providing housing and supplies for students unable to leave campus due to circumstances out of their control
  • Bolstering scholarships for students nationwide

Staff also used creative problem-solving to ensure already-granted donations could be donated. For several years, State Farm has provided a $10,000 grant to help fund Summer Expeditions, a Columbia Public Schools program hosted on Columbia College’s main campus that provides under-represented fifth- through eighth-grade students a chance to see that college is a future option for them. With the pandemic cancelling all events on campus, the college inquired about redirecting State Farm’s grant toward CC Cares.

“Education has always been a big focus of ours, but also part of our mission statement is ‘helping people recover from the unexpected,’” said Dave Oloffson, corporate responsibility analyst for State Farm Insurance. “Obviously, there’s no better time than right now to help people work through the unexpected. In this case, if there’s something we can do to alleviate the burden of an international student that can’t get home or some of the other issues that came up, that’s absolutely something we want to help with.”

Alumni also jumped in to support. Rotshak Dakup ’17 works for Microsoft as a support escalation engineer in the Dallas area, and recorded a video and made a gift to encourage other alumni to give to the CC Cares Fund. “CC is my family; I love CC so dearly,” he said.

The college received requests for funding from Columbia College students across the country. Dean for Student Affairs Dave Roberts, who reviewed the requests, noted that some students needed money for living expenses, others for assistance with their tuition balances; some needed help with both and more. “None of these students were eligible for federal CARES Act funding or other support, but by tapping into the CC Cares Fund and other privately endowed emergency funds for student support, we were able to help support nearly every request,” he said.

Here are a couple of notes from students who received funding:

“I am very pleased to hear that I was given $700 towards my outstanding balance … Thank you so much for your understanding and support during this time and I would never forget it and how you helped me to lighten my burden during this difficult time. I will definitely consider supporting scholarships and projects at Columbia College one day in the future, so I will be able to help future generations of students. Thank you so much again and please forward my gratitude.”

“Thank you so much for allowing me to be a recipient … I am deeply grateful for it. My heart is full of joy. I will be able to move forward with my education in times of need. Also, thank you for providing a list of counseling resources.”

“Thank you so much for your email and for the assistance! I was in tears this morning when I saw your email. I am over the moon and thankful that you are able to pay for two classes. My boss told me yesterday that our company might not be back to full time status till August and I was starting to panic as my funds are getting limited.

“With the scholarship I can stay on track and graduate in Spring 2021. I’ll be the first female to graduate from a 4-year college in my family. My family is super excited and plans on going to MO to see me walk the stage at the home campus. Again I am very thankful and I hope one day I can provide assistance to a student in need or contribute to scholarships and projects once I graduate.”

Editor’s note: The Advancement Division was also able to reschedule its Giving Day for June 9, when alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends flooded the college with support. More than 400 donors gave over $93,000 to the Columbia College Fund – an increase of 300 percent in funds raised over its inaugural campaign.