Assisting in a Crisis

By Blake Hicks


The COVID-19 pandemic left many students without housing and community that they’d been expecting for the spring semester. Each of the University of Tennessee campuses saw the needs of its students and utilized emergency funds, and then alumni and donors stepped in to help students.

At UT Chattanooga, the Denise and Tim Downey Student Emergency Fund was created in 2019 to provide limited emergency help for UTC students experiencing monetary hardship. Almost $96,000 came in through donations to assist students with rent, utility payments and grocery money.

Anticipating the needs of their students, the UT Health Science Center developed the UTHSC COVID-19 Response Fund. It has generated more than $35,000 since its creation in March.

UTHSC also has the Nursing Student Emergency Support Fund. Created in 2017, it has generated close to $6,500 in gifts and pledges and specifically helps students in the nursing program.

The UT Knoxville’s Student Emergency Fund was established in the early days of COVID-19 and has garnered support from Vols around the nation and the world. By late May, more than $372,000 in donations helped students who did not meet criteria for federal aid.

Jennifer Ware and family

“The Student Emergency Fund assisted my husband, five children and me while my part-time job was furloughed. The money helped us pay for household expenses like food and utilities,” says sophomore Jennifer Ware.

UT Martin focused on a specific group of students that university leaders knew would need support. The Displaced Student Workers Fund provided more than $38,000 in assistance to UTM student workers during the pandemic.

Dalis Lampkin

“I gave to the UTM Displaced Student Worker Fund because, as someone who depended on an on-campus job for the entirety of my undergraduate career, I know how vital that income is as a student and couldn’t imagine being in this unique situation that COVID-19 has created,” says Dalis Lampkin (Martin ’19), donor and Young Alumni Council member.

Jordan Reynolds, a senior, was one of displaced student workers assisted at UT Martin.

“Please know that, even though you may never see the direct impact your gift had on a student’s life, it does not mean that you did not make a di£erence,” he says. “Because of you, a student did not miss a meal; because of you, a student did not miss a car payment or insurance payment; because of you, a student did not have to lose their apartment; because of you, a water, electric and/or internet bill was paid. Again, thank you so much for all that you have been able to give.”

Jordan Reynolds

The Institute of Agriculture knew that, during this financially difficult time, a£ording pet care could become burdensome. The Small Animal Assisted Care Fund generated more than $162,000 in assistance for furry friends in need of medical attention.

“We’re glad to help those having di¦culties taking care of their pets during these difficult times,” says Joan and Steve (Knoxville ’77) Cohn.

More than 3,200 donors gave more than $704,000 across the system by mid-July towards these student emergency funds.

To make a contribution to these funds or others, visit