Frank Dining Hall Employee’s Residence Burned Down, Fundraiser Organized To Replace Home

Lalana Sharma, News Editor

After Frank Dining Hall employee Cindy Wilcox’s son, armed with a gun and threatening to hurt himself and others, allegedly set her home on fire on Feb. 18, destroying the property, the Colgate community has come together to support a GoFundMe to help Wilcox find a new home. As of March 2, over $46,500 of the $50,000 goal has been raised.

Madison County Sheriff’s Department officials responded to a call from Lebanon, NY, on Wednesday, Feb. 17 at approximately 6:45 p.m of a report of a man, Joshua A. Wilcox, armed with a gun and threatening to hurt himself and others. After an eight-hour standoff with authorities,Wilcox was arrested on a count of third-degree arson and second-degree menacing, according to a press release from the office of Madison County Sheriff Todd Hood. The residence set on fire belonged to Cindy Wilcox, Joshua Wilcox’s mother. Erin Bennett, daughter of Cindy Wilcox, organized a GoFundMe fundraiser on Feb. 18 to help pay for new housing and to replace items damaged in the fire. 

The Madison County Sheriff’s Office alerted Hamilton Fire Department to standby in response to a potential threat by Joshua Wilcox, who, according to the press release, was armed, and threatened to create a fire inside the residence where he had barricaded himself along with family members, according to a statement released by Madison County Fire Coordinator Douglas F. Shattuck.  

During the standoff, Joshua Wilcox continued to threaten to hurt himself, according to the press release.  

Bennett’s husband, daughter and nephew were in the house along with Cindy and Joshua Wilcox. The scene was secured by officials and the family was evacuated without incident soon after, according to Cindy Wilcox.

“I was having a problem with my son. We couldn’t control him. He was drinking and stuff and I had other people come down and help me. He got out of control and we had to call 911. And we left,” Cindy Wilcox said.

Bennett said her daughter and husband attempted to deescalate the situation.

“My daughter, my husband went down; it escalated and it resulted in them calling 911 because he just wouldn’t stop,” Bennett said.

Cindy Wilcox found out her residence had been caught on fire only after evacuation.

“They had us come to my daughter’s house and that’s when we found out he caught the place on fire. We didn’t know [until later that there was a fire] because they figured he’d walk out of there but he didn’t. He just started the fire and then walked out with his hands up,” Cindy Wilcox said.

Joshua Wilcox was evaluated by medical staff on the scene and transported for mental health evaluation, according to the release. 

After discovering the fire, law enforcement requested response from the Hamilton Fire Department at 2:37 a.m. on Feb. 18. Once Joshua Wilcox was taken into custody, firefighters were directed to the scene to extinguish the fire, as was stated by Shattuck.

“The well involved fire in the residence was quickly brought under control with assistance from Earlville, Eaton, and Hubbardsville Fire Department and SOMAC and SEVAC Emergency Medical Services,” Shattuck said in a Fire Response Summary obtained by the Maroon-News.

Hamilton Fre Department (HFD) student responders were also on scene. HFD Chief Jason Murray said fire department members are unable to respond to requests for comment because the cause of the fire is under active investigation. 

Madison County Fire Investigation Team, in cooperation with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, are responsible for conducting the investigation, Shattuck said. 

“It’s still kinda hard to sink in,” Cindy Wilcox said. “I finally went down [a week after the incident] and it kinda hit me a little bit. I have a couple animals that are missing. One cat I know is gone and then we’re still looking for the other.” 

Bennett said she and her daughter also went down to try and salvage items after the fire, but that it was a “total loss.”

“We got her purse out which was awesome. It was soaked but it had all of her license, her car keys; everything was in that and then we got her safe with the birth certificates and all that stuff out. As far as clothes and everything else, we can’t salvage none of it,” Bennett said.

Cindy Wilcox said that because insurance will not cover her 1979 trailer on account of its age, she hopes that all damages can be covered by the fundraiser.

“I’m trying to find another place that I can put down there. The GoFundMe is gonna help; that’s what’s that’s going towards, just finding a new place. It can be new, used, I don’t care. [I just need to] find something to put in there,” Cindy Wilcox said. 

The fundraiser has accumulated over 1,100 donors and 778 shares. As of March 2, Bennett and Wilcox are $3,500 short from their fundraising goal of $50,000. Donors include Colgate students, employees, faculty, families, community members and University President Brian Casey.

“The support has been phenomenal,” Bennett said. “We cannot believe the outpouring of support we’ve had from the community, Colgate, and the students.”

The Max A. Shacknai Center for Outreach, Volunteerism, and Education (COVE) shared the fundraiser link in an email sent Feb. 23, asking community members to consider supporting Wilcox and her family. Students individually shared the fundraiser link on social media as well, including GroupMe and Instagram.

Junior Katherine Watt was among the students that made a donation, having found the fundraiser through Instagram. 

“I’ve known Cindy since my freshman year. Living in Stillman [Hall], I was a Frank regular, which is where I met Cindy. Cindy always, always, always has a smile for every person that walks through the doors of Frank,” Watt said. “Cindy is an incredibly important part of the Colgate community.”

Going forward, Bennett hopes the support will help Wilcox and her family find a new trailer by the summer. 

“My nephew also lives with her, a Hamilton school student. Our plan right now is we’re hoping to raise at least enough to get a good chunk,” Bennett said. “She’s 63 years old. She owned everything there. Now she has to start over at her age and that’s a lot. So our plan now is to get it cleaned up and hopefully this summer get them another place down there.”