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Rebel Aid Secures $176,000 for Student Needs

Rebel Aid – the 48-hour grassroots social media campaign to help University of Mississippi students who have been hit hard by COVID-19-related circumstances – generated a swift and generous response from alumni, friends, student organizations and athletics leaders who gave 855 gifts totaling $176,671

The campaign was extended by 14 hours due to donor requests, wrapping up with some areas, such as the Christopher C. Holman Fund for Student Emergencies and the Ole Miss Food Bank, exceeding their campaign goals by 788% and 695%, respectively.

A campaign highlight was three student organizations giving a combined $20,500 to help fellow students.

Ole Miss football coach Lane Kiffin donated $20,000 as part of a $52,500 gift. Other donors to that combined gift were Athletics Director Keith Carter, baseball coach Mike Bianco, men’s basketball coach Kermit Davis and women’s basketball coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin.

The university had already established a Rebel Relief Disaster Fund to help students with grants averaging $200 to $500 each to take care of pressing needs, including those related to food, housing and health care, Chancellor Glenn Boyce said. Resources were available for only 40 more students before Rebel Aid campaign was launched.

“The Ole Miss family has always responded well when asked to take care of our own, and Rebel Aid reflects that exceptional compassion and generosity,” Boyce said. “Our university community is special because it is defined by relationships and support for each other in both good times and in challenging times.

 “We are deeply grateful for this outpouring of resources to ease the burdens of our students and bolster campus units that serve students. Though this particular campaign has concluded, our university community will continue doing everything possible to serve our students during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.”

Hosted by the Office of the Chancellor, Office of the Provost, Division of Student Affairs and Department of Intercollegiate Athletics – and supported by the Office of Development and Marketing and Communications – Rebel Aid gave donors the opportunity to direct their gifts to six areas: the Ole Miss Food Bank, Christopher Holman Student Emergency Fund, University Health Center, University Counseling Center, Academic Support Fund, Fins Up Fund and Rebel Relief Disaster Fund.

Kiffin spoke for the Ole Miss athletics leaders who joined him to make the major gift.

“Like millions of Americans, many of our student-athletes, including several on our football team, are suffering as a result of the coronavirus,” Kiffin said. “I am proud to lend a hand with others in our athletics department during these challenging times. I encourage the rest of the Ole Miss family to join us in helping our Rebels.”

One pressing need some students continue to experience is that of adequate food. Kate Forster, director of advocacy at Ole Miss, saw the food bank distribute as much food the first week of the crisis as it usually does in an entire semester. Every week since has seen the same level of demand.

“I have connected with so many students over the past few weeks that are benefiting directly from the generosity of our Ole Miss family,” Forster said. “Basic needs like food and housing are essential for a student to be healthy and successful at the university, and the way that our community has come together to support our students during this crisis is truly humbling.

“Every student I have spoken with about their needs and these resources has been deeply grateful, as I am. We thank you for your support of the food bank and emergency funds for our students.”

The Interfraternity Council gave $10,000 to Rebel Aid, the College Panhellenic Council contributed another $10,000 and the National Pan-Hellenic Council provided $500. Cole Barnhill, of Union, Kentucky, the IFC president, said the fraternity members believe Rebel Aid is an important cause.

“We began work with our 15 member organizations about a week ago to brainstorm ways to help our community during this time,” Barnhill said. “While (the fraternities) focused on the Oxford community side of things, the Interfraternity Council turned our focus toward helping our Ole Miss family.

“Through numerous texts and meetings via Zoom, our executive board decided we wanted to contribute $10,000 and began looking for the best way to maximize the impact of that amount. We hope that this contribution will allow our community to continue to be able to have access to the resources and support they need. At the end of the day, that’s what the Ole Miss family does – we look out for each other.”

CHP President Shelby D’Amico, of Madison, agreed.

“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, our community felt compelled to contribute to the fight against the hardships being created by this worldwide crisis,” D’Amico said. “As the women of Panhellenic at the University of Mississippi are all being affected by this virus on varying levels, we felt it necessary to play our part in ensuring the safety and well-being of our students.

“By giving to Rebel Aid, we were not only able to contribute directly to our women, but were also able to extend a helping hand to those students outside of our community.”

Rebel Aid gifts to the Academic Support Fund will translate into more assistance for any and all students enrolled. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Academic Success Program’s mission became far more complex when students had to transition to remote, online delivery, said Rebekah Reysen, assistant director of academic support programs and adjunct professor in the Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience.

“This meant the services offered by academic support programs – including academic mentoring, academic success workshops, academic consultations, skills-based classes and student success coaching – also had to adapt to this challenging new learning environment,” Reysen said.

“Thanks to your donations, we will be able to expand our services by using online platforms, which will allow us to continue providing essential support to our students. Because of your generosity, many students will be able to overcome any and all obstacles to academic success, and they will be able to move that much closer to graduation.”

Ole Miss students who need assistance should go to https://umatter.olemiss.edu/ or email Kate Forster, director of advocacy, at kforster@olemiss.edu.

For more information on giving to the Rebel Relief Disaster Fund, email Maura Langhart at mmwakefi@olemiss.edu or give online at https://ignite.olemiss.edu/rebelrelief. All gifts from the Ignite Ole Miss crowdfunding platform go to the UM Foundation and are fully tax-deductible. Also, visit https://give.olemiss.edu.

By Tina H. Hahn and Jonathan Scott

Adam Brown
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