A few clicks can change lives

Emma Derr

When the disaster at Windfall happened a couple weeks ago, most people were in a state of shock.

The fire began early in the morning and burnt the beloved house to the ground.

It was a tragic end to a house that Chi Psi fraternity brothers had been living in since 1964.

The Lexington Fire Chief said the residents were lucky to be alive, and if you have seen any pictures of the aftermath, I have no doubt you agree as well.

The students living in the house lost all of their possessions, so a sister of one of the Chi Psi residents started a Go FundMe page.

In three hours, they raised $14,000. In the next seven days the Washington and Lee community raised over $37,000.

An interesting conversation in one of my groupchats began when one of my friends noticed another Go Fund Me page in the sidebar of the Windfall page.

“I just went on Go Fund me to see what else was trending and got sad at the post I found because it was also a house fire in Lexington,” Allison Young, ‘20, said. “It made me realize how separate W&L is from the Lexington community as a whole.”

  The page she found was the “Amanda Carter House Fire.” Amanda Carter is a Lexington mother of 8 children whose ages span from three to 23.

Just like the tragedy at Windfall, the Carter family lost their entire house and all of their personal belongings. They did not have insurance.

The fund was created to “get her family back on their feet.” The page asks for immediate help, as the family does not have necessities, such as clothes.

“Most people probably just don’t know about that woman’s house, which is a part of the issue,” Erin Dringman, ‘20, said.

Two things became very clear to me.

For one, we are so incredibly lucky to be a part of the Washington and Lee community.

According to CNN Money, Washington and Lee has one of the highest-paid averages for graduates – with a starting salary of $50,700 and a mid-career salary of $124,300.

According to the Forbes “Grateful Graduate Index,” Washington and Lee is ranked 13th on a list of 200 private colleges for donations from alumnae. The average 10-year median donation per student is $17,155.

We band together in times of need and clearly from the amount that Windfall was able to raise in such a short amount of time, W&L alumnae do not think twice about supporting the current students and the university.

There is another side to this story though – the Amanda Carter side of things.

Washington and Lee, where according to The New York Times over 19% of students come from the top 1 percent of wealth in the nation, is nestled in Rockbridge County where 13.9% of individuals are below the poverty line, according to 2010 census data.

  I cannot even imagine the emotional and physical hardship the Carter family is going through right now, and all of the other people who are experiencing financial hardships in Lexington.

“It makes how isolated we are very clear,” Julia Carullo, ‘20, said.

In no way do these statistics diminish the wonderful gifts given to the men who lived at Windfall, but they do highlight how much impact W&L students and alumni could have if they reached outside of the bubble we live in.

Some alumnae and students do give their time and money to the people in the area.

But I think it is fair to say that the majority does not – but it is not necessarily their fault.

Many people do not know about the conditions in Rockbridge County. They do not know that in 2014 about 15.5% of individuals in the city of Lexington were labeled food insecure, which is the state of being without reliable access to sufficient quantities of food.

Another surprising statistic is that over 7.5% of individuals do not have access to a car, which greatly decreases their ability to access health care or employment.

I do not know Amanda Carter personally or am aware if she experiences these specific issues. But I do know that many people in Lexington and Rockbridge County do. And I do know that the Carter family needs help – so why shouldn’t we help?

“I donated the same amount to her [Amanda Carter’s] page and to the Windfall page. That’s one of the saddest things about W&L is how disparate our lifestyle is from everyone else in Rockbridge County,” Dringman said.

So, let’s make a connection.

Please demonstrate that we as a community can show the same compassion we have for each other to the people of Lexington.


It takes one to start a trend.

Two to start a movement.

And a few clicks to change someone’s life.