On November 15 last year, tragedy struck the family of two Carleton students, Margarita Cruz ’07 and Michele Cruz ’11. A fire broke out in the abandoned apartment by their house in Chicago and spread to three surrounding buildings. While no one was injured, the family’s house was completely burned down. Last Friday evening, on January 25, the Cruz Family Benefit was held in the Great Hall at Carleton to raise money to support the Cruz family in rebuilding their home.
While many different individuals worked together to contribute to the event’s success, a committee made up of five friends of the Cruz sisters spearheaded its organization. They approached the college for permission to host the event and received its support. While the college offered the committee its space and other necessary resources for the event, it could not provide any monetary assistance. The committee and others dedicated to this cause then began to create plans for an event through which they could raise a substantial amount of money from individual donations. The result of their efforts was the Cruz Family Benefit, through which they raised approximately $5000 for the family.
All members of the Carleton and Northfield community were invited to the benefit, which consisted of dinner, several individual and group performances, and a silent auction. Tickets for the event were priced at $8 for early purchases and $10 at the door. The opening address was delivered by Associate Professor of American Studies and English, Adriana Estill. She expressed awe at the turnout for the event and highlighted the importance of community in times of crisis. Her address was followed by performances by an a cappella group, Intertwining Melodies, and by the dance groups Whoa! and the Hip Hop Dance Company. Throughout the event, attendees were highly encouraged to bid for the 70 items which had been donated by members of the Northfield and Carleton community. These included several gift certificates, buys from local shop Anna’s Closet and accessories such as jewelry, among other things. Almost all of the 70 items had been bid on after an hour-and-a-half long silent auction, during which attendees of the event demonstrated their support for the Cruzes by bidding generously.
“The response we received from Carleton students, faculty and staff was amazing,” said Erica Martinez ’08, one of the five members of the committee that spearheaded the event. “We diligently pulled this off in five weeks, and we were all very pleased with the benefit. The volunteers were great!” Despite the fact that 4 out of the 5 members of the committee are seniors and are in the process of writing their Comps Papers, they worked well together and the event ran smoothly. They divided the work up between themselves for greater efficiency; Nou Her ’08 took charge of publicity for the event, See Yang ’08 handled the ticketing as well as the entertainment for the event, Monica Diaz ’08 and Chai Lee ’09 organized and ran the silent auction, while Erica managed the catering and logistics for the event. While she admitted that there were stressful moments during the process of organizing the event, Erica believed that everyone worked very well together.
The Cruz family has had to change their residence several times in the past few months following the tragedy with their house. Immediately after the fire took place, a nonprofit organization based in Chicago, Aftermath Relief Incorporated, placed the victims of the fire, including the Cruzes, in a hotel for three days. Following this, they moved in with their relatives for the next few weeks and are now living in a one-bedroom apartment in Chicago. “It was not easy for me to see pictures of my family all around campus on posters for the benefit, but I knew that all those involved in the organizing of the event cared a lot for my family and were doing their best to help us,” said Michele Cruz ’11. “My sister and I are deeply thankful to the whole campus for what they have done for us. The overall outcome has been incredible.”