The Columns

Calling All Generals: Alan Carrillo ’18L “I’m so honored to be part of a W&L community that is full of kind, generous and responsive people that care enough to act and support organizations like RARA, who are on the front lines investing in our neighbors’ lives and wellbeing.”

— by on February 3rd, 2016

Alan Carrillo '18L

Editor’s Note: Alan Carrillo is a first-year law student from Bedford, Texas, and the 1L Representative to the Executive Committee. Concerned about the impact of the recent blizzard on the Rockbridge area’s needy, Carrillo launched a last minute fund-raising campaign and called on his fellow Generals for donations to the Rockbridge Ara Relief Association (RARA).

The effort brought in over $1000 in only four hours, enough to cover the cost of a week’s stay in a motel for the three families that had reached out to RARA for help ahead of the storm. In the essay below, Carrillo explains what motivated him to launch the effort, which is still active at https://www.gofundme.com/rockbridgerelief.

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As winter storm Jonas bore down on the mid-Atlantic a few weeks ago, I remember hearing some students complain about the weather. People were excited about having a snow day, but even then some students were frustrated about being unable to get out of their houses. As I was stocking up on my groceries, I had similar thoughts—the weather simply felt like an inconvenience.

I saw some headlines that mentioned how the storm would be a life and death situation for people in Washington, D.C., in particular. As I thought about the people it would affect the most, I immediately thought of the large homeless population in the greater D.C. metro area. It made me wonder how already-packed homeless shelters would prepare to help more people in need. It also made me incredibly grateful that, for me, a huge snowfall just meant a holiday cooped up in my warm apartment. Ultimately, it was a stretch to even call it an inconvenience. It certainly wouldn’t be anywhere close to a life and death situation for me. And I wondered if there were shelters in the greater D.C. metro area that would need help in the wake of the storm.

Then I realized that surely there were people in Lexington who were homeless and in need of help. I did a quick Google search and discovered the Rockbridge Area Relief Association (RARA). I gave them a call and spoke with their executive director, Kitty Brown. I told her I was a W&L law student and wanted to see if there was anything my fellow students and I could do to help as RARA prepared to help people in the midst of the storm. I asked if they had a shelter, and Kitty said that RARA primarily serves the community as a food pantry. However, because of the weather conditions, the food pantry would be closed. She confirmed that financial donations were the best way for us to help. RARA had put three local homeless families in motel rooms for a week to survive the weather, and when she told me the costs of the rooms I said, “I’m going to see what I can do. I’ll let you know soon.”

After my last class for the day, I launched a GoFundMe page called, “Relief for Rockbridge Families.” I recruited a few friends at the law school and the university to help me spread the word, and within five hours the link had been shared on social media over 250 times, and we had reached our financial goal to provide these three families a place to stay for the week. I was absolutely amazed not merely by the generosity of my fellow students, their friends and members of the local community, but also by the timeliness of their response. They saw a need and an opportunity to help, and with no hesitation, they gave. In just five hours, we were able to serve our community in a simple, but intentional and tangible way.

I think the campaign resonated with students of the university and the law school because it’s so easy for us, in this flat world in which we live, to think of problems such as terrorism, climate change, famine, etc., on a global and impersonal scale. It sometimes feels like there is nothing we can do to reverse their course. However, every need our world faces is essentially a basic human need—food, water, shelter, security—and can be identified and addressed anywhere, including in our own backyard.

I think the recognition of the existence of a real, basic human need that we tend to take for granted—a warm place to call home—combined with its immediate presence in our local community, convinced people not only that we can do something, but also that we should do something. If members of a community don’t identify and work to solve local problems, no one else is going to do it. This is exactly what RARA has successfully done and continues to do in Rockbridge County.

I’m so honored to be part of a W&L community that is full of kind, generous and responsive people that care enough to act and support organizations like RARA, who are on the front lines investing in our neighbors’ lives and well-being. This is just another small example of how W&L is truly a special place.