Administrative Assistant, Office of the Assistant Vice President for Finance

Judy Powell, who is the Medical Arts East building coordinator, was the first person JMU police called on the night of the fire. It was around midnight on that Sunday night. She immediately notified John Knight, the assistant vice president for finance. Three things stand out in Powell's mind from the night of the fire. First, by coincidence, she had recently reviewed the Finance Disaster Plan and placed it in her office at home. So, when she received the news of the fire, the phone tree was readily available and the disaster plan was ready for immediate distribution. The second thing that stood out was "How surreal the next 24 hours seemed." Thirdly, Powell was amazed at "how deeply the director of payroll sleeps!" Powell is Claudia Clark's neighbor, and "after multiple attempts to call her on the phone, my husband and I had to resort to pretty strong measures for 1:30 in the morning: Ed stood on her carport, calling her on the cell phone, hollering her name and banging on the door. This method eventually worked!"

By Monday morning, Powell was back at work to attend planning meetings, and in a new temporary office in the Office of Resource Management where David Eton, Jinni Cook and their entire staff had created office space for her and John Knight, and IT and telecom had provided them with computers and telephones. By the Christmas break, they had moved into more "long-term" temporary offices.

The fire added double the amount of work to the finance department as well as dozens of other campus departments. In addition to doing their regular jobs, they had the added responsibilities of ordering supplies, furniture and equipment, finding office space, moving, setting up offices and files, recovering documents, attending planning meetings, tracking, justifying and reconciling all expenses and documentation to be submitted to the Office of Risk Management for reimbursement. Powell explains that "since finance is very deadline driven, this all had to be done while continuing to complete our regular work by the required due dates."

Powell was "greatly impressed" by the leadership during the fire and its aftermath. "Decisions were made and things happened; and they happened right away. The stress level was high, but the consideration and kindness shown was even higher."

Knowing that she can't possibly be aware of all those whose acts of kindness made the situation more bearable, Powell mentioned a few she would like to thank here:

- Commonwealth One prepared a lunch at Anthony-Seeger Hall for all of us in finance as well as for the many who were hosting us in their offices. Mary Lou Glick from assessment and Shannon Fitzgerald from Commonwealth One pulled it all together so we could just drop in, have a quick lunch and get back to the business at hand.

- Mr. Charles King, senior vice president of administration and finance, sent an e-mail to all finance employees on Wednesday the week of the fire. His sincere expression of thanks, support and caring meant so much to the tired employees of finance.

- Friends and family provided meals and support for late-working employees.

- IT provided bagels for the employees.

- Sponsored programs brought donuts to each office.

- The human resources staff provided pizza for all.

- VALIC donated a Wal-Mart gift certificate to help with immediate supply needs.

- The Writing Program brought fudge.

- The assessment office and the office of the vice president for administration and finance donated copy paper and office supplies.

- Some finance employees donated personal funds to help their fellow workers replace eyeglasses, etc., that were lost in the fire but not covered by insurance.

- Local vendors offered discounts on some of the supplies we needed.

- "Fire Fairy" - This is the mystery gift-giver that started soon after the fire and continues to distribute gifts randomly with no pattern or time frame. Many finance employees have received the "Fire Fairy" gifts. Those that have not yet received their package look forward to the mail to see if it is their day. The trademark of the "fairy" is a plain white 9- by 12-inch envelope with only the employee name and mail stop code. Inside the envelope is a small gift that seems to have been chosen with you in mind. A wide assortment of gifts has been received, all with the personal touch that would be expected from someone that knows you.

Powell says that "the support and caring of the entire JMU community was heartwarming. The dedication, commitment and leadership of the finance department made me very proud to be a part of the team."

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