Couple gets help from community, friends

IUS Horizon

Tina Leas, English senior, and husband, Gregg, received financial help from Tina Leas’ fellow students and the couple’s congregation when they fell upon hard times. As a result Leas will finish her degree at IU Southeast in 2009 as originally planned.
Tina Leas, English senior, and husband, Gregg, received financial help from Tina Leas’ fellow students and the couple’s congregation when they fell upon hard times. As a result Leas will finish her degree at IU Southeast in 2009 as originally planned.

Tina Leas is an English senior preparing to graduate in 2009. She and her husband of 12 years, Gregg Leas, have five children between them.

Tina is a full time student at IU Southeast and for several years has worked seasonally as a campground attendant at Clifty Falls State Park.

During the off-season the family normally gets by on Gregg Leas’ paycheck, and they fill in any gaps with her financial aid benefits.

As usual, her job ended for the year at the beginning of November, but this year things were different.

In June, Gregg Leas lost his job and has been unable to find employment since then. In addition, their son needed surgery this fall, so funds in the household were very tight.

“I was talking with my friend Jana about the situation, my son in the hospital and my husband out of work. I was talking about how the only thing to do would be to drop out of school. I’m not the best student and I didn’t think anyone would miss me.”

Leas’ friend and fellow student, Jana Morgan Herman, English literature senior, was touched by Leas’ story and decided to see if she could do something to help.

“It struck me that as a seasonal worker she may not have insurance, and I knew they had no money,” Morgan Herman said.

She started sending e-mails to students, staff and faculty she knew at IU Southeast, and also to Leas’ fellow church members and friends in Madison, Ind. She shared Leas’ situation with them and asked for donations, and was pleased by the response.

“It was really great because all the IUS professors wanted to be anonymous. People who didn’t even know her, who had never had her in class, were donating,” Morgan Herman said.

Michael Maupin, English senior, is a friend of Leas’ who received one of Morgan Herman’s e-mails.

“I thought it was a beautiful thing that people would band together to help Tina and her family. It just underscores the feeling of community at IU Southeast,” Maupin said.

Word of the project spread by e-mail and by word of mouth, and approximately twenty people participated on campus, with more donations coming from Leas’ church friends.

“By the end of the day I had an envelope with money in it,” Leas said. “There was even some extra money added to my U-Card so I would be sure to have lunch at school.

“It meant so very much to us that they cared about me and my family. It really meant a lot to me that they cared enough about me and my family to keep me in school.”

Maupin agreed.

“The end result was that Tina was able to buy groceries and provide for her family after her own resources were exhausted,” he said.

“But maybe more importantly, I believe Tina truly knew what it was like to be among a community of people who loved her and cared for her family and their welfare. I feel like it was something special.

“You don’t always have to raise a flag for a cause to make a difference. There are people all around us who struggle from time to time. Darfur and Sudanese affairs are important, but so is making certain that people in your backyard are being cared for.”

Leas and her family are still struggling with finances. Her husband has not yet found a job.

As the fall semester comes to a close and graduation draws closer, Leas said in spite of the challenges, she’s determined to graduate.

“We’ll get through it some way,” Leas said. “God always provides.”

By DARIENNE ARCURI
Staff Writer
darcuri@ius.edu