A 2016 graduate of Michigan State University, Paula Reser was enjoying a few days of Florida sunshine with good friend Catherine Diebold when she learned Monday night of the horrific shooting on her alma mater’s campus.
Raised in a home that emphasized giving, Reser knew what she had to do as soon as she heard the news.
“Catherine and I were in (Pensacola Beach) Florida for just a couple days of sunshine when she received a text message from a family member letting her know about the shooting,” Reser recounted. “We listened to the police scanner a little while and then we looked at each other and decided we had to go home. We knew there might not be anything we could do right away, but we may be able to help in 15 hours (the time it took to drive home to East Lansing). So we packed up and headed home.”
As Diebold drove, Reser put together a social media post stating she could help arrange for students who lived more than a short drive from East Lansing to find a ride home:
“To my Spartans, to my students, to my friends on campus. We know that you may not all have the means or the car to go home to your out of town families. We also have full understanding of the congestion issue with campus. We have rallied over 30 local families and have vehicles on standby to make sure you can go hug your parents and get out of here.”
At the end of her post, she wrote: SPARTANS WILL (with a green heart).
“Initially, we thought there may be one or two students who would find us — a couple who would need a ride or gas money,” she said. “As it turned out, there were a lot more than a couple.”
Reser’s original post was shared more than 2,000 times on Facebook and has generated close to 400 reactions and over 130 comments.
Before she knew it, Reser was receiving requests from a growing number of MSU students. On Thursday alone, nearly 50 students had reached out to her before 2 p.m. — and there were countless others who did the same on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“The one constant that has resonated with me about the requests is how humble these students are,” she said. “We’ve had a number of students who simply asked for $25 in gas money so they could drive back to metro Detroit or wherever. The biggest things they’re asking for are gas money and DoorDash gift cards.”
Little sleep, big results
Reser has worked nearly around-the-clock since Tuesday to help meet students’ requests. She said donations are rolling in at a pace equaling the requests.
The self-employed owner of Peanut Gallery Bling and Lansing resident (she is currently taking courses in pursuit of a master’s degree), Reser said she has set aside her work orders to focus on meeting the students’ needs.
One student’s request for a plane ticket to fly home to Wyoming was met. Students’ requests to fly home to be with their family in Austin, Texas, and Philadelphia were also met (among many others) thanks to Reser’s ability to connect with people who donated frequent-flyer rewards.
“It’s the way I was raised,” Reser said, when asked if she had previous experience helping strangers. “When I was young, my family ran the Community Crisis Fund, a full 501(c)3. My major is related to helping the community, so I’ve always had a heart for people, whether I knew them or not.
“We really started this thinking we could help a few students, but we’re learning there was a far greater need than what we originally thought. I am just glad I’m able to help.”
To learn how to donate to Reser’s efforts, message her on Facebook.