Community Provides Shelter for Students

By Brooke Schultz

Elm Staff Writer

When the evacuation emails went out on Tuesday, Nov. 17, there was a need to house students who had no place to go.

“We never had to send out any official request because the message quickly spread through the campus by email and then through the Washington College Facebook page,” Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Sarah Feyerherm said.

Students who were unable to go home because of short notice and distance were placed with volunteers. Feyerherm said that her email inbox was “inundated with offers from faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and community members willing to host students who needed a place to stay.”

Among those who stepped up was Marla Thomas, payroll specialist for the Business Office. Thomas hosted two freshmen international students from China, and she said that the transition into their home went very well.

“The two students have opened up to us as we have tried to make them feel like a part of our family,” Thomas said. The students were excited to be celebrating Thanksgiving and an upcoming birthday with the family.

Thomas is the mother of four children, ages 21, 19, 15, and 6, and she volunteered to host students because her “mother instincts kicked in.”

“Since my children are around the same age as the students, I felt that I needed to help in any way that I could. I would hope that if my children were in the same situation, the community would help them as we have at WC,” Thomas said.

Feyerherm said that between her personal email and the Facebook page, they had between 150 and 200 offers to host students.

“It ranged from President Bair offering space in the Hynson Ringgold house, to faculty and staff in the area, to alums who live in Baltimore or beyond – all willing to help,” Feyerherm said.

Community members such as Clayton Black and Cheryl Hoopes of Simply Bed and Bread in Chestertown hosted students until they could make it home for Thanksgiving.

Many of the volunteers also offered to drive long distances to retrieve students, and Transportation Secretary Sarah Crump said, “We didn’t just have people offering to house students but to also shuttle them to and from the airports and train stations.”

While faculty and staff came together, Crump’s seven drivers all stepped up on short notice to help shuttle students from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“Some of these fine gentlemen put in 10 hour days at a moment’s notice, and we really wouldn’t have been able to get everyone home without them,” Crump said.

Although the situation at the College unfolded fairly rapidly, the community responded just as quickly, and for that, Provost and Dean Dr. Emily Chamlee-Wright is thankful.

“I am deeply grateful to the faculty, staff, and members of the Chestertown community who came forward to offer our students assistance in a difficult moment.  Their response was swift, generous, and unwavering.  It is a reminder that every WC student is also, in a very real way, a member of the Chestertown community,” she said.

Feyerherm described the response and willingness to house students as “emblematic of the WC community” and said, “As long as I’ve been here none of us have ever had to face a crisis or tragedy alone. Everyone’s willingness to carry a piece of the load has lightened the burden for all of us.”

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