$150,000 grant from RCU will aid Sonoma State University wildfire victims

February 26, 2018

Sonoma State University has been awarded $150,000 for mental health counseling and other critical needs by the North Bay Fire Relief Fund, a partnership of The Press Democrat, Senator Mike McGuire and Redwood Credit Union, housed within the Redwood Credit Union Community Fund.

The grant is part of RCU’s larger effort to assist North Bay fire survivors. For Sonoma State, it will provide much-needed resources for students, faculty and staff impacted by the fires.

“Sonoma State University continues to recover from the impact of the fall wildfires, and we are so grateful for grant from the RCU Community Fund,” said President Judy K. Sakaki. “We will focus in the areas of mental health counseling and education security, while continuing to provide support to members of campus who were directly impacted by the fires.”

The funds will allow the university to:

--Hire additional counselors to work with students, staff and faculty

--Establish an emergency scholarship fund targeted toward students who have been severely impacted by the fires

--Supplement the existing Noma Gives fund created to assist students and employees who were directly impacted by the fires.

Sakaki noted that in the fall semester, more than 800 students requested counseling and psychological services, a 52 percent increase compared to the previous year. SSU moved quickly to augment university staff with an additional 13 counselors obtained from sister schools in the California State University system.

For faculty and staff, Empathia, the university’s Employee Assistance Program provider, added onsite support post-fire to provide professional assistance to faculty, staff and their families in assessing and resolving personal problems that may be affecting well-being or job performance.

The budget impact of these decisions is significant and SSU had to redirect funds from other campus services, Sakaki said.

The emergency scholarship fund is designed to support for students who are thinking of withdrawing from school because their families were impacted by the fires, either directly or through loss of employment or wages. The goal is to prevent dropouts and keep students on pace for their degrees.

Noma Gives continues to receive requests from campus members who have been impacted by the fires. SSU anticipates these needs will continue into the spring semester and the RCU grant will augment the relief fund, which has disbursed over $110,000.