Imagine you’ve gotten a new job in a different state. You and your spouse pack all of your belongings into a U-Haul, hitch your car to the back and set off.
Halfway there, in the middle of the night, the U-Haul is stolen along with your car. Everything you own is gone.
This is the situation that Amber Crowell, a new assistant professor for Fresno State’s department of sociology, and her husband Zach found themselves in July.
The U-Haul was found the next day, but most of their furniture was destroyed and their car, electronics and anything valuable, was gone.
This is also when they found out that their insurance through U-Haul didn’t cover theft, and there was only liability insurance on their car. To top off their misfortune, they had canceled their renters insurance when they left their old place.
Bottom Line — just about nothing was insured.
The morning after the theft, Crowell took to Facebook to ask for advice on how she could handle their situation. Little did she know that this would cause an avalanche of support from her new peers at Fresno State.
Cristina Herrera, chair for the department of Chicano and Latin American studies; Larissa Mercado-Lopez, an associate professor for the department of women’s studies; and Rosa Toro, assistant professor for the department of psychology, started a GoFundMe page for Amber and Zach. It asked for help and set a goal for $10,000. Within a month, the amount of donations surpassed the goal and currently sits at $11,935.
“I was just asking for advice, but it got to these three here at Fresno State and they started the GoFundMe and sent it out all over Fresno State,” Crowell said. “People here rose up and mobilized so a lot of the donations came from Fresno State. And it spread around the community of Fresno so people connected to faculty here started donating.”
As of Aug. 27, 232 donors have contributed to the campaign.
“We are really appreciative that so many people helped us,” Crowell said.
According to the GoFundMe website, the campaign was shared over 820 times.
“It’s hard to believe that it was shared that many times,” Crowell said. “It was hard to accept that we needed help because you want to say that you can get through something on your own. We let people go ahead and set it up for us and we realized that we could not have gotten through what we went through without all that support. I think they are great.”
Crowell has considered this series of events from a sociological perspective.
“We call it Gemeinschaft. When you have a society that is more in style of Gemeinschaft, there is a strong sense of community, and there are more empathetic connections,” Crowell said. She explained that Gemeinschaft is a sociological concept where individuals value the community as much as they do themselves.
“I think Fresno State definitely has that. My sense of this university is that the faculty are all very supportive of one another,” Crowell said. “So knowing that I was joining their family, so to speak, I think that they didn’t even think twice about helping. I am not a social theorist when it comes to altruism and donations, but I would say that it is probably the sense of community here that creates a sense of empathy for each other.”