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2008 News Releases

Longwood Creative Writing students pitch in to raise money for Madeline’s House

October 10, 2008

Creative Writing students Austin Eichelberger (from left), Alex Odom, Lia Carroll-Hackett and Sarah Barr raised money for Madeline's House." Creative Writing students Austin Eichelberger (from left), Alex Odom, Lia Carroll-Hackett and Sarah Barr raised money for Madeline's House."

Students in Longwood University’s Creative Writing program recently undertook a crash fundraising effort that helped avert a financial crisis for Madeline’s House, a local shelter for battered women.

When four students – seniors Sarah Barr and Lia Carroll-Hackett and graduate students Austin Eichelberger and Alex Odom – learned that Madeline’s House needed to raise $13,000 in only a few weeks or risk closing its doors, they rolled up their sleeves and went to work. Their campaign involved not only the campus but also the Farmville community.

"We happened to be in the office of Mary Carroll-Hackett (director of the Creative Writing program) when Cindy Longest (fundraising coordinator for Madeline’s House) called her on September 24," said Barr. "When Mary got off the phone, she said ‘Something needs to be done. Let’s do it.’"

The students went to local businesses and asked them to donate one percent of their profits on Oct. 1, appropriately the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, to Madeline’s House. Some 14 businesses agreed, and one, Charley’s Waterfront Café, agreed to give 10 percent and to hold a Madeline’s Night once a month. They sold raffle tickets the week of Sept. 29-Oct. 3 and on Oct. 4 raffled off 19 donated items at Oktoberfest. They encouraged other student organizations to pitch in, and among those that did were Alpha Phi Omega (APO) service fraternity, the men’s and women’s rugby teams, and the men’s golf team, which is planning a charity golf tournament to benefit Madeline’s House. APO donated half of the proceeds from its recent car-wash to the shelter. "They were already holding a car-wash, but they made double what they made last year," Eichelberger said. The dining hall has agreed to donate to Madeline’s House all of the money from "Skip-A-Meal," held every semester in conjunction with APO, to be held Oct. 28, in which $2 is donated to a charity for every student who skips dinner (in the past, the money has been split between the FACES food pantry and Meals on Wheels).

The students raised $1,223 from the raffle and on-campus donations. The 14 Farmville businesses that took part in Madeline’s Day raised another $1,204. "Cindy (Longest) has credited us, through the awareness we created, with raising more than $40,000," said Lia Carroll Hackett, who is Mary Carroll-Hackett’s daughter. That figures includes a $15,000 donation from the Town of Farmville on Oct. 1. "As a result of our effort, the towns of Blackstone and South Hill have decided to hold their own Madeline’s Day," Lia said.

"The Longwood students have been phenomenal," said Emily Marshall, executive director for Madeline’s House, the only domestic violence shelter for a 12-county region. "They went door-to-door soliciting businesses one day when it was raining hard. Mary has done a fantastic job with these students."

Marshall conceded this has been the shelter’s worst financial crisis. "We’ve had funding cuts the past several years, and we were getting almost no donations from the community," she said. "Our rainy-day fund went dry, so the situation went from bad to worse starting in June. We ended up using all of our reserves and were 90 days in arrears on our utilities bill, which is where the $13,000 figure came from. The donation by the Town of Farmville took care of being 90 days in arrears; now we’re 60 days in arrears. We haven’t cured all our ills."

Mary Carroll-Hackett also praised the students. "The campus became motivated to help this cause," she said. "The students feel like their community is not just Longwood but Farmville. I’ve never been prouder. Donations are coming in from all over the country, due to a Facebook group that someone started. Some people say students – young people – are apathetic and won’t help. In my experience teaching, that’s not true. They will step up beautifully once they know how to do so.

"Advocacy training has always been part of the Creative Writing program," she added. "We want them to be socially responsible and to be advocates. For example, every fall we do a fundraiser for Madeline’s House, and we also do an annual fundraiser for FACES called ‘Will Read for Food.’ This year the need was just so much more dire."

All of the four students but Odom are members of the Student Editorial Board, part of the Creative Writing team that publishes the Dos Passos Review (DPR). Lia Carroll-Hackett and Barr are the managing interns for the board, Eichelberger is the graduate assistant for both DPR and the Creative Writing program’s small literary press, Briery Creek Press, and Odom administers the Ten-Minute Playwriting Festival.

Madeline’s House often faces financial challenges. "They have a federal grant, but they always need donations," said Mary Carroll-Hackett. "If they close their doors for even one day, they will lose the grant money. They operate at a deficit anyway. Madeline’s House is desperately needed since it’s the only domestic violence shelter for 12 counties."

Madeline’s House is named for Madeline Gearheart Mitchell of Farmville, who was murdered by her estranged husband in 1998. In the recent funeral for Madeline’s father, Rudy Gearheart of Farmville, the memorial program asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Madeline’s House.

"It was gratifying that so many people chimed in to help," said Barr. "Unfortunately, though, donations are still down, and the problem’s not going to go away." Added Lia Carroll-Hackett "At least the immediate crisis has been taken care of, and federal grant money should come in by the end of October."

Some 16 of the raffle items – 15 sweatshirts and hoodies and a $50 polo shirt – were donated by Longwood’s Barnes & Noble Bookstore. The other raffle items were one gift certificate each from La Parota, Ruby Tuesday, and Wingshak. In addition to Charley’s, the other businesses that participated in Madeline’s Day were Amish Originals, Atkins Jewelry, Buffalo Creek Guitar Co., Divas & Dudes, Esther May, Just Desserts, Little Green Store, Mottley Emporium, Perini’s Pizza, Red Front, Riverside Café, The Daily Grind, and The Outer You.