Emily, left, and Caitlyn Tolomei Credit: College of Southern Maryland / College of Southern Maryland

When the pandemic hit in March 2020 and Gov. Larry Hogan ordered Marylanders to stay home, Lisa Tolomei – a single mother of two – immediately settled into her Chesapeake Beach home office. Her daughters Caitlyn and Emily weren’t so lucky. The day after Lisa started working from home, Caitlyn was laid off. And the day after that, Emily lost her job. All three Tolomeis are part-time students at the College of Southern Maryland (CSM).

“Caitlyn had just signed a six-month lease on an apartment and her plan was to continue school full time, work and start a life with her future husband,” explained Tolomei. “Everything changed in an instant. Her getting laid off meant I needed to assist in paying her bills, making sure she had tuition, rent, car insurance, etc. Emily was planning to start CSM this fall, and she was working to save money for a car. All of our plans and savings got sidelined by COVID almost overnight.”

But Tolomei and Caitlyn soon learned they would be receiving financial assistance from CSM through CAREs Act funding and CSM’s ‘Help a Hawk’ scholarship – an emergency fund established to help ease the burdens of pandemic-driven unemployment and fatigue; and to keep existing CSM students enrolled.

“I was awarded the Help a Hawk scholarship and it helped me so much,” said Caitlyn Tolomei. “Suddenly, I was furloughed and living off of unemployment and occasionally watching my godson. I had no clue how I was going to pay my bills, let alone my school needs. Thanks to the scholarship, I was able to pay for my classes and books and stay in school this fall. I am so grateful.”

“The CARES Act funds helped me buy the kids food, assist with any residual costs for tuition, and make sure my kids were taken care of,” shared Lisa Tolomei. “I also received scholarship assistance from CSM Foundation’s Help a Hawk fund which allowed me to continue taking classes during the pandemic. I am grateful to CSM for their generosity and quick assistance. CSM helped my family and many other families tremendously.”

“No student should have to choose between affording to live and affording to learn,” said CSM Acting Executive Director of the CSM Foundation Chelsea Clute. “That is why this December 1 on GivingTuesday, we are asking for the public’s show of solidarity and support for our CSM students and we are asking them to help replenish our Help a Hawk fund. The pandemic is far from over and we are asking our communities to help us, help our students until they can get back on their feet.”

GivingTuesday is a global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world. Created in 2012 as a simple idea: GivingTuesday is a 24-hour giving event that encourages people to do good by giving, collaborating, and celebrating generosity.

The Help A Hawk Fund provides aid to CSM students experiencing financial hardship and began in March 2020 as a Student Emergency Fund in response to COVID-19. To date, the CSM Foundation has raised $148,000 in support of students impacted financially by COVID-19. More than $120,000 has been awarded to 378 students thanks to  the foundation’s Help a Hawk efforts. Continued contributions will replenish the fund and provide direct relief to students in the form of Hawk Feeder care packages; tuition assistance; and technology and educational supplies.

Generous donors and supporters of the CSM Foundation have already pledged to match 2020 GivingTuesday gifts, dollar for dollar. Visit the CSM Foundation website for a list of matching donors or for more information on how to become a matching donor. Participants can also make a donation during one of CSM’s ‘Power Hours’ on Dec. 1 (8-9 a.m., 12-1 p.m. or 6-7 p.m.) and be entered into a live drawing to win exciting prizes.

Learn more about GivingTuesday at CSM by visiting online at CSM Giving Tuesday Events.

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) (S.748) Charitable Giving Incentive: Includes an above-the-line deduction (universal or non-itemizer deduction that applies to all taxpayers) for total charitable contributions of up to $300. The incentive applies to contributions made in 2020 and would be claimed on tax forms next year. The bill also lifts the existing cap on annual contributions for those who itemize, raising it from 60 percent of adjusted gross income to 100 percent. For corporations, the bill raises the annual limit from 10 percent to 25 percent. Analysis of S.748 prepared by the National Council of Nonprofits.

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