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CSU OnlinePlus rallies to help family of student impacted by floods

November 6, 2013

A team from OnlinePlus witnessed the aftermath of September's floods firsthand when they volunteered to help a student hourly employee clean up his family's farm.

Eric Gill's family farm was devastated by September's floods.More than a month has passed since the waters from one of Colorado’s most devastating floods receded, but the evidence of the damage caused is far from gone. A team from Colorado State University OnlinePlus witnessed the aftermath firsthand when they volunteered in mid-October to help a student hourly employee clean up his flood-ravaged family farm.

Despite dry air and a clear sky offering a calm passage for flocks of migrating sandhill cranes, the grounds of the pastoral five-acre property near Kersey were thick with mud. Piles of debris several feet high dotted the landscape. Furniture lined the outside of the family’s warped and saturated farm house.

“There was about 27 inches of water in the house,” Eric Gill, a senior in graphic design at CSU, and marketing hourly at CSU OnlinePlus, said about his family’s nearly century-old home. “We didn’t expect the water to get that high… the house has been there 75 years and it never happened before.”

When Gill’s colleagues at OnlinePlus learned about what had happened, they quickly inquired about how what they could do to help. “People were really generous in offering, so I talked to my parents about what they needed,” he said.

Overwhelming response

The team at the Gill farm (from left): Julia Smith, Jeanna Nixon, Justin Smalley, Eric Gill, Bruce Trameri, Kylie Vanderheiden, Jennifer Huether, Steve Juarez, Joyelle (in blue sweater), Isabelle (in white jacket), Greg Soffe, Don Gill, and Janelle Gill.It turned out the family needed quite a lot of help, with their property torn apart, their belongings destroyed, and their home damaged to the point of being uninhabitable. The impact of the disaster was compounded by the fact that they didn’t have flood insurance.

This news sparked an overwhelming response from a number of OnlinePlus employees, led by Director of Marketing and Engagement Jeanna Nixon. The team rallied together to collect money for the family and volunteer part of their weekend to help clear debris, tear down broken fences, and move out whatever furniture was salvageable on the property.

“Seeing people’s entire lives turned upside down and knowing that just a few hours of my time could help relieve some of their troubles seemed like a no brainer to me,” said Greg Soffe, a marketing manager at OnlinePlus.

The OnlinePlus office collected more than $700 in donations for Gill’s parents, and encouraged Gill to apply for help through CSUCares—which helped him get a $2,000 grant.

“We’re so grateful for the help that OnlinePlus and the CSU community have given us,” Gill said.

Caring for our own

The work crew moved the family about a month ahead of where they would have been doing the work on their own, and the monetary donations will help them purchase new, essential household items to replace what they lost in the flood.

Justin Smalley, an academic advisor for CSU’s Department of Construction Management and former OnlinePlus employee, joined the work crew.

“Service is important to OnlinePlus, and it’s one of the main principles of our land grant university as a whole,” he said. “We need to care for our own, which includes our students and the citizens of Colorado.”

“It was a great way to help our community recover in a way that had personal ties,” said Steve Juarez, interim Director of Information Technology at OnlinePlus. “I think our help exemplified the values of the people who volunteered, and since it just so happens that also exemplifies OnlinePlus’ core values, then I guess we’re all in the right place.”

Contact: Julia Selby Smith
Phone: 492-4708