Venmo campaign raises holiday money for Bear’s Den employee

| Contributing Reporter

A student-led fundraising effort raised $2,000 to help support Bear’s Den employee Bill Jackson, who recently suffered a familial loss, by using the app Venmo to rally monetary support.

Sophomore Laurel Ross, who led the campaign with fellow sophomore Jeremy Fine, said she got to know Jackson during her regular morning visits to the Grizzly Grill in Bear’s Den over the past two years.

“Bill and I happened to get to know each other because I’m there all the time, and I’m there when we have time to talk,” Ross said. “He knew me by my order that I would get every morning. I would walk up, and he’d be like ‘I see you, cheddar!’”

Bill Jackson is handed a $2,000 Target gift card to help him pay for gifts this holiday season. Over a hundered students donated to a campaign to help Jackson.Geordan Neinstein

Bill Jackson is handed a $2,000 Target gift card to help him pay for gifts this holiday season. Over a hundered students donated to a campaign to help Jackson.

In early November, Ross learned that Jackson’s sister had passed away, leaving behind a four- year-old son. Jackson had mentioned that he was looking to lift the spirits of his nephew, especially because of the fast-approaching holiday season.

Saddened by the news, Ross said she decided to find a way to help. She consulted friends and classmates, like Fine, for ideas. Fine, who also knew Jackson from visits to Bear’s Den, was eager to contribute to Ross’s efforts.

“I thought there would be support from people because he is such a beloved community member,” Fine said. “I saw potential to help someone that I care about and that other people care about.”

Fine suggested using Venmo, an app that allows users to wirelessly transfer and receive money and that he had used previously for a fraternity fundraiser, as an avenue for collecting donations. He created the account “Gift for Bill on the Grill” to mobilize students to give monetary gifts in a cohesive way.

Fine and Ross were optimistic that other students would be inclined to support Jackson, but they did not foresee the outpour of donations that would soon follow. Within one day of setting up the account, “Gift for Bill on the Grill” received nearly $900. The account, which stayed open for the following week, received a total of $2,000 worth of donations.

“The donations we received ranged from as little as $1 to as large as $50. It was just crazy. It gives me so much faith in this community and that there are such good people on this campus,” Fine said.

Fine noted that in addition to monetary gifts, many students sent notes to Jackson through the app’s messaging feature to show their support and admiration for him.

“So many people commented that Bill makes their day so much better every day. He really positively impacts a lot of people,” Fine said.

Fine and Ross were astonished by the success of their campaign and expressed appreciation for the generosity of the Washington University community.

“Seeing the community help someone else out within the community like this blew me away. I’m so proud to be a student here right now. It made me think that this is a school composed of really good human beings, and that makes me so happy,” Fine said.

Fine and Ross used the Venmo donations to purchase a gift certificate from Target. Additionally, they made a poster for students passing through Bear’s Den to sign to send their holiday wishes to Jackson and his family. The students plan to present the gift to Jackson this Monday morning.