In the past few months, Bloomington women’s shelter Middle Way House has seen a surge in donations from all over the world, including a student group in India, a man in his seventies who had never made a donation before and hundreds of IU students.
The donations have rolled in as part of the “I’m With Jesse” campaign, a fundraising partnership between Middle Way House and actor Jesse Eisenberg.
Students who donated to the fundraiser met Eisenberg last night for a question-and-answer session and a screening of his movie “Zombieland.”
“The students here were not just responsible and savvy in helping with it, but also incredibly engaged in the ethos of the campaign,” Eisenberg said. “They seemed to be doing it not just for the celebration of helping a local organization, but for actually building awareness and passion for the organization’s cause.”
Students from the organizations that contributed the most money were invited to the event, including Kappa Delta, the overall winners of the student campaign.
Kappa Delta raised $18,000 for Middle Way House on their own, Kappa Delta philanthropy chair Emily Bussick said. When the money was donated, another anonymous donor added $10,000 to their contribution.
Kappa Delta raises and donates funds to Middle Way House every year. This year broke their previous fundraising efforts, Bussick said.
“This issue is something that touches a huge amount of people,” Bussick said. “I had a friend in high school myself who was in a domestic violence situation, and I never knew how I could help her. I was blown away by how our girls went above and beyond, and supporting this cause has been one of the coolest experiences in my life.”
Students played a major role in organizing the campaign as well as donating, Eisenberg said. Organizations such as the Kelley Institute for Social Impact and Middle Way House student interns and volunteers worked to create and advertise the fundraiser.
“I’m from Bloomington, so I’ve always been aware of Middle Way House, but the work they do became much more important to me when I became an RA,” said Rose Johnson, a junior who helped with the campaign. “Assault to women is something we deal with way too often. The work they do with IU is so important, so being able to contribute to it is a really big deal for me.”
All money raised through the campaign contributes to paying off Middle Way House’s mortgage, said Jim Davis, Middle Way House’s fund development coordinator.
“One of the challenges of a nonprofit organization is figuring out how to put as much money as possible towards the services we provide,” Davis said. “With a mortgage paid off, that’s month after month of overhead payments that can now go directly to the services we provide for women.”
The campaign has raised $350,000 so far, said Anna Strout, Eisenberg’s girlfriend, who volunteers with Middle Way House and helped organize the campaign.
While the student contest part of the fundraiser is over, the Bloomington community campaign is still running, and a few smaller student fundraising events are planned through the end of the school year.
“Hopefully this is not just something that closes a mortgage,” Eisenberg said. “We probably all know someone who’s affected by domestic violence, and so hopefully this can continue to raise awareness beyond the people directly affected by the issue and those who donated.”