When three Indiana University of Pennsylvania students lost their house and all of their belongings a week ago today in an early-morning fire on Locust Street in Indiana Borough, friends were quick to lend a helping hand.
Fellow IUP students Ashley Warren, Gina Murdock, Josh Marshall, Luke Lundberg, Kelsey McDade and Amber Leddon, some of whom live next door to the fire victims, almost immediately started organizing what would turn out to be one of the biggest “house parties” IUP may have seen — all for a good cause.
“We couldn’t believe that our friend’s house burned down,” Murdock said. “We thought, what could we do to help?”
Next they knew, they were out walking the streets of Indiana, asking for donations and getting the word out for the party they were going to throw at their house on Saturday.
Al Patti’s, The Ironwood Grill, Fox’s Pizza, Tres Amigos, Sheetz, The Coney, Giant Eagle Express, Giant Eagle, Holiday Distributors, Spaghetti Benders and Chappy’s Place all contributed what they could to the cause — gift cards, T-shirts, bracelets to sell, cases of water and clothing.
Planning for the “party with a twist,” as Lundberg called it, was rushed, with just two days to spare before the event, but with a team effort they pulled together and accomplished many tasks. In order to get the word out, the group posted messages all over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
“It couldn’t have been a one-person job,” Marshall said. “We were all on the phone at the same time doing different things.”
The party, which they called “IUP Nation Unite,” brought in a crowd of about a hundred people, according to Lundberg, and raised more than $1,100 for the three fire victims.
“We asked everyone attending the party to bring a donation of $5 and any items they had that could help, like perishables, toiletries and clothing,” Lundberg said. “Before we knew it, our ‘house party’ was a complete success.”
“We would really like to acknowledge all of the Indiana and IUP community, friends, businesses, who helped,” he said.
A major role-player in the event, Lundberg said, was fellow student Devon Beer, who gave fire victim and musician Matt Toland his own guitar after Toland’s was destroyed, and fire victim Dustin Beck a new hockey jersey. In addition, Lundberg said, he spent the whole day managing the event and donation of money.
Since the fire destroyed the home, victims Toland, Beck and Shawn Haines are staying with family and friends.
“We’re still getting stuff,” Lundberg said. “Random people are dropping stuff off, just stopping by to bring things.”
Lundberg also said that, at the party, people were not hesitant to donate more than the requested $5.
“That’s one good thing about a small town,” Lundberg said. “Everyone wants to contribute and help out.”
By using the party as a way to raise money for their friends, Lundberg said, they were bringing light to a traumatizing situation. The event created a positive experience in a terrible situation.
After mentioning that it seemed as if IUP students get a bad “rep” for their partying, Marshall said “we can party for a good cause.”
“When times get rough, people can always come together and handle the situation,” Lundberg said. “Even if they are a bunch of broke college kids.”