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A fairy godmother on a mission

Alumna reducing student costs one dorm room at a time


 
latia-allen

SUMMARY: Latia Green Allen ('94) established Dorm Fairies, a nonprofit focused on helping new college students with expenses related to furnishing their residence hall rooms.


By Jessica Nickels

College move-in day can be challenging and stressful. There’s excitement for new beginnings, moving away from home for the first time, meeting new peers and classmates and prior to the big day shopping for dorm room decorations, supplies and necessities. All of these things can contribute to a happy, successful school year.

However, many college students who are slated to live in a dorm face the struggle of having to purchase new items that are essential for their new home-away-from-home. More often than not, these items will run up the bill—a bill that students and parents typically take on.

Latia Green Allen (’94) is attempting to lift this burden. Her nonprofit organization, Dorm Fairies, established in 2019 and based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, was created to assist individuals with purchasing dorm room essentials. The goal is to lessen new students’ financial burden and help make their college transition smoother. 

Dorm Fairies awarded its first recipient over $600 toward dorm room essentials for the 2019-20 school year. By creating and hosting fundraisers and events, Allen and a community of friends and family cobbled together the funds. For the 2020-21 school year, Dorm Fairies awarded six recipients.

Anyone is welcome to apply for the scholarship through the Dorm Fairies website, and the recipients are chosen based on need and family situations. Allen and her team encourage the recipients to create a registry at their store of choice. From there, Dorm Fairies purchases up to $525 worth of dorm room items and necessities, and has them shipped to the recipient’s home.

From bath towels to rugs, coffee makers to trash cans, Dorm Fairies purchases the students’ most highly rated items. The most popular items are shower caddies, mattress toppers, and comforter and sheet sets.

Latia and Derrick Allen
Latia Green Allen ('94) and her husband, Derrick, assemble dorm room essentials for distribution to students as a part of her nonprofit organization Dorm Fairies. 

The COVID-19 pandemic left its mark on many businesses and organizations around the world. Allen and Dorm Fairies, however, have remained unaffected. Even before the pandemic struck, their business model was COVID-19-safe. By working behind the scenes, Allen and her team are able to provide the items without interacting with recipients and their families. “Although we are not there when they decorate their rooms with family and friends, we want to supply them with the items needed to do so,” Allen said. She also noted that, despite the ongoing pandemic, their goal to award 10 students for the 2021-22 school year remains.

A human communications major with a focus in public relations and an English minor, Allen was struck with an urge to help students when her youngest daughter was preparing for her freshman year at American University in Washington, D.C. Allen observed how few items other students were unloading during move-in day, compared to her daughter’s two carloads of dorm essentials and supplies. “When my youngest daughter moved in [to college], I noticed a lot of students coming with one suitcase or just one box of supplies,” she said. That is when she realized that many families struggle with being able to purchase all of the new items that create a comfortable dorm room and that “dorm room essentials were not at the top of students’ and their parents’ lists,” compared to tuition, textbooks and computers. Allen decided to take the initiative to ease the burden of dorm room costs.

As a freshman at JMU in 1990, Allen was drawn to the Center for Multicultural Student Services, where her academic adviser, Cheryl Plank, also worked. Allen was a first-generation college student and she credits her success at JMU to Plank, who helped her navigate difficult times on her way to earning a degree.

“My experience at JMU is what made me want to help other college students, too. I credit Cheryl Plank with my graduating and my love for higher education. We still talk to this day and if it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have graduated and be working in higher education like I am today.” After completing one semester of graduate school, Allen left to pursue a career in the insurance claims industry. Then, in 2008, she decided to continue her dream of working in higher education and re-enrolled in graduate school.

Having worked in higher education for 13 years in career services and as an assistant registrar, program coordinator and, most recently, an academic adviser at Old Dominion University, Allen is familiar with speaking with students about their struggles, stresses and situations. Her background has given her insight into what life is like as a college student now, compared to her days as a student at JMU.

“I feel like working as an academic adviser has given me the most experience to be able to assist students through Dorm Fairies,” she said. The nonprofit’s slogan, “We believe in you,” means much more than just that. “Working in higher education has allowed me to let my students know that I believe in them and that they can succeed,” she said.

Thanks to alumni like Allen, students and their families have one less thing to worry about. College is a fun and exciting time in a student’s life, and Dorm Fairies is working so that it can remain that way.

 

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Published: Friday, January 15, 2021

Last Updated: Wednesday, February 3, 2021

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