(WARRENSBURG, Mo.) – When a fire destroyed his father’s home this January, senior music technology major Nick Welch wasn’t sure how he could do anything to help. So he created a GoFundMe page hoping to raise enough money to get his father an apartment for a month.
“I was thinking, ‘Well, I have a credit card, I could probably get maybe a couple nights in a hotel,’ but I didn’t know where he would be able to stay for a month or start living,” Welch said.
Although Welch works two jobs, he said he still didn’t have the kind of money needed to help his father, especially with the cost of college and his own rent.
“It was more of a thing of ‘I really want to finish college, but I mean, I wouldn’t let my dad go homeless to finish college,’” Welch said.
On the GoFundMe page for his father, Welch said he didn’t know what to do.
“This man is 64 years old and lives alone in Lebanon, Missouri, because I am in college three hours away,” Welch posted on the GoFundMe page. “When my mother passed away, we had to let the house insurance go away because we had to figure out how to pay bills. I need help. I’m not sure if this is where I will get it or not, but I honestly do not know what else to do. Thank you for reading this. Thank you if you donate.”
Welch said he put $2,000 as the goal for the fundraiser, but was just hoping to get $320 – enough to get his father a place to stay for a month.
Welch said the next morning Eric Honour, the interim chair of the department of music at UCM, asked him if he could share the GoFundMe page with the music faculty. Honour said a number of them immediately turned around and donated.
“And then from there it just exploded…most of the people who have donated have been music teachers here, music faculty,” Welch said. “It went much faster than I thought, because I mean it’s already past its goal – it’s over two grand right now.”
Honour said he saw Welch’s GoFundMe page on Facebook and also heard about it from Benjamin Cowan, another student in the music technology department.
“Knowing the kind of person Nick is, he’s not the one to usually ask for help, rather he is the one always helping and volunteering his time to people,” Cowan said. “So when I saw that (GoFundMe page), I knew it was very serious, and the least I could do was spread the word and contribute.”
Cowan said he sent an email to Honour and the student president of the Audio Engineering Society, Dan Gardner, asking them to help spread the word to the rest of the music faculty and student body. Cowan asked Honour if he could email the entire music student body to let them know about Welch’s situation.
“I didn’t end up sending an email to all the music majors because I didn’t feel 100 percent comfortable about that – especially without talking to Nick first – but I did click through the GoFundMe page and read what was going on,” Honour said. “And so I right away talked about it with my wife and donated some money to the GoFundMe page.”
Honour said Welch quickly received a fairly significant amount of support, including help from John Rutland, the orchestra director and professor of violin at UCM, whose wife helped connect Welch with a reporter at 41 Action News.
“His wife said she had some ties with some media and asked me if it was OK if she reached out to them and told them. So I said ‘Yeah, sure,’” Welch said.
He said he assumed he would be contacted by university media but didn’t realize it would be a news station.
“It’s weird how that worked out, but it was also stemming from the music faculty here,” Welch said.
Welch said his father was able to get an apartment and secure two more months’ rent. He said his father might even be able to use the leftover money to pay off a medical bill he had incurred from previous trouble with his heart.
Welch said it’s hard to put into words how grateful he is.
“I’m not used to asking people for help, but it was almost inspiring to see that people are there to help, because I mean really the only family I have left is my dad,” Welch said. “My mom passed away seven years ago…I mean this sounds bad, but since then, everyone else has passed away that I actually talk to in my family. It’s nice knowing that I have a family away from my family that actually cares.”
Honour said it was really touching to see the community draw together and support one of its own.
“Nick has always been super quick to help others… if somebody needs a hand, he’s the first one to jump in and help out,” Honour said. “So in this time that he needed the help, it was really great to see people pull together and pay that back.”