Momentum builds for COVID-19 Slug Support fundraiser

Community steps up to give hundreds of thousands of dollars to a fund supporting students in need; number keeps growing

The COVID-19 Slug Support campaign is a runaway success, and its momentum keeps building day by day.

Two weeks ago, the campaign had raised an impressive $81,000 since its inception in late March, with 246 donors stepping up to help. Now, it’s only a matter of time before that amount will double. 

As of this writing, the fundraising total is nearly $150,000, with almost 550 supporters contributing, including alumni, students, staff, and faculty.

"We are overwhelmed with the outpouring of support our community has given and continues to give to this campaign,” said Emily Denning Todd, UC Santa Cruz’s assistant director of annual and digital giving, who is leading the charge for this campaign. 

The campaign benefits UC Santa Cruz's most vulnerable students during the COVID-19 crisis, which has placed an additional strain on their resources. They face a wide range of challenges, from financial hardships to gaps in access to technology, as well as health issues and food insecurity. 

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The campaign has received monetary contributions as well as equipment donations from all across the UC Santa Cruz community. The Jacques M. Littlefield Foundation, a charitable organization, contributed a $35,000 gift.

The funds raised from this campaign, along with contributions from the Chancellor’s Office, the Top It Off Fund, and the Dean of Student Success, have been used to purchase laptops for students. NETGEAR, a computer networking company based in San Jose, donated 300 modems.

“This community response has been unbelievable,” said UC Santa Cruz Assistant Vice Provost for Student Success Gwynn Benner, who has been facilitating the launch of the new laptop lending program called Slug Tech as part of this campaign. 

Many students have moved back to their homes because of the ongoing epidemic. This disruption has complicated their lives, with students being called upon to earn extra money in households with parents who have lost jobs.

Others live in homes without reliable access to wifi. Some don't have, or are sharing, functioning laptop computers. “With family members all now sheltered in place at home, our students are struggling to find time on a shared computer. They must juggle computer time with their siblings, and with parents or guardians who are also working remotely,” notes Benner.

Those who remain on campus can no longer rely on access at UC Santa Cruz computer labs and libraries because both have been shuttered during the COVID-19 crisis. 

In the face of these issues, this fundraiser is aiding students in several ways:

  • Providing food stability for students through digital gift cards, Instacart purchases, and meal swipes to campus dining halls that remain open. Slug Support also connects students to CalFresh for long-term food needs and supports campus food pantries, which remain open for students in need.
  • Funding students in dire need of emergency housing and providing rent support for students who may have lost wages due to reduced work hours.
  • Connecting Slug Support case managers to students who may be in isolation/quarantine to address their needs.
  • Providing distance learning resources through Slug Tech. Slug Tech is working to ship students new laptops, assist in internet booster needs, and provide additional technology to help students function during this time of remote learning.
  • Supporting students who have returned home or taken a leave of absence by connecting them to their local resources for health insurance, mental health services, and unemployment benefits.

“Given the immense amount of uncertainty during this time, the need to support our students will likely continue to grow,” Todd said. “We plan to continue the campaign as long as funds are needed. Our hope is to support every student undergoing financial hardship."