In the grand scheme of things, it might not mean that much, but today, after a week of news filled with the stories of the victims and the heroes from the horrific mass murders in El Paso, Texas, Gilroy, Calif., and Dayton, Ohio, perhaps we need to hear a little bit of good news.
For us, in our tiny corner of the world in Central Virginia, it’s the story that broke Tuesday afternoon, when the national news wires were full of new details about El Paso and Dayton: The University of Lynchburg announced its new residence hall would not be complete in time for students to move in when they begin returning to campus for the new school year. But thanks to a partnership with Liberty University, the nearly 250 UL students affected by the construction delay won’t be out in the cold: LU has opened up its mothballed Annex, located on Odd Fellows Road, for as long as it’s needed and at no cost.
Back in May, LU President Jerry Falwell Jr. said UL President Ken Garren reached out to him as it appeared construction of the new, 90,000-square-foot dorm might slip behind schedule. LU staff then began sprucing up the old hotel to get it ready for students. Earlier this summer, Garren informed Falwell, with whom he’s become friends over the years, that construction was back on schedule, but weather delays in the following days knocked it off track from its project Aug. 19 completion date.
(LU bought the building, an old Holiday Inn, several years ago to provide housing for its students while several new dorms were being constructed on campus.)
All told, UL students will be using about 140 rooms, as well as dining and lounge facilities at the Annex. Garren hopes it won’t be a long delay — students begin returning next week and classes begin Aug. 29 — with a September target for completion of the dorm.
But Falwell and LU have told Garren the university can use the facilities as long as needed.
“We empathize with them,” he told The News & Advance. “We’ve been in the same situation as them and have found ways to improvise. It’s what Christians believe, to help others. It would be a shame to turn students away, and we’re more than happy to help.”
Demolition of the old McWane Hall dorms began last summer in advance of work beginning on the new, as-yet-unnamed dorm. Most of the residents of the $22 million facility will be students who are enrolled in the university’s Westover Honors College. Even then, officials knew they had an extremely tight construction schedule of just 14 months to demolish one dorm and construct another with an opening date just 10 days before the start of classes.
So yes, as we’ve absorbed the tales of horror and sadness from El Paso and Dayton and Gilroy such as the young couple in El Paso who died shielding their newborn infant from the rain of bullets in a Walmart, we’re fortunate to have this story of one friend reaching out to help another in a time of need.