Community Support Staff Member with Cancer

With generous support from the Colgate community, the Jean Brooks Support Fund has raised over $35,000 for long-time Colgate employee Jean Brooks who was recently diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Initiated by members of the 2013 men’s ice hockey team, the online fund was created a month ago as a way to show support for Brooks and to help with some of her medical expenses.

Brooks, who can often be found manning the front desk at Frank Dining Hall, has been working at Colgate for 36 years and has made quite an impact on the student body during her time here.

“I know Jean just from coming through Frank Dining Hall daily. It started with visiting my brother when he went here before I did and everyone mentioning how great she was,” Christian Long ’13 said. “She is also a huge hockey supporter and comes to most men’s hockey games, so she was always a huge support for us and everyone loves to just talk to her daily because of how amazing she is. She has always been a bright spot in my day whenever I see her or think of her, and she is always wearing the biggest smile.”

Long helped create the Jean Brooks Fund on GoFundMe after speaking with other members of the 2013 men’s ice hockey team and Custodian Harold Comfort.

“[We] were floating around ideas to see how we could help out Jean and [the online Fund] is what we came up with. A former Colgate hockey player, Joe DeBello, mentioned GoFundMe and I decided to go with the idea once we ran it by Jean to get her approval. But I was just the one to put the page up…it has really been a collective effort by the entire Colgate community,” Long said.

“You can’t be…I mean what are you going to do? But we were concerned. I do have to have treatments for the rest of my life. It doesn’t just stop with six [treatments] so this fund is such a blessing.”

Besides monetary donations, Brooks says that the personal messages and demonstrations of support have meant a lot to her as well.

“Most everyone is sending messages and I love seeing familiar people’s names and remembering them. My family supports me but they’re far away and so the support I’ve gotten from the community here has meant a lot.  Someone will come in and say ‘you look like you need a hug’ and I’ll say, ‘I sure do.’ I am so lucky to have that,” Brooks said.

Currently, Brooks is undergoing radiation to treat the cancer. As to whether or not she will continue working, Brooks says she’s taking it day by day.

“I really want to finish the school year and hopefully I can come back next fall. I am 70 years old, so I’m taking it week by week, semester by semester. I’m not ready to give up Colgate yet…Gary Ross once asked me when I was going to retire, and I said that I would when this became a job, when it got hard to get up every morning and go to work, then I’ll retire because it’s time. But I haven’t reached that point yet,” Brooks said.

Brooks said that she is very grateful for all the support.

“How do you find the words? I’ve had such a hard time trying to think of how to thank everyone and how to let them know how much this means to me. There’s no possible way for me to thank people enough. I wish there was some way to thank everyone personally, but how do you? I just hope everyone realizes how much my husband and I and my family appreciate this…it means the world. And just hearing from everyone is enough! It means so much to me,” Brooks said.

Sophomore Elena Aragon donated to the Jean Brooks Support Fund through the GoFundMe page. She says that she met Brooks during her first year at Colgate when she went to Frank every day for meals. Aragon says that she always appreciates Brooks’ smile and the fact that she took the time to learn and remember her name.

“I think that a lot of people have decided to contribute to Jean’s fund for reasons similar to mine. She makes people feel special and brings a little bit more positivity into everyone’s day, which never goes unappreciated. I know that Jean has brightened my day several times, so I figured it was time to brighten hers a little bit too,” Aragon said.

Students wishing to donate to the Jean Brooks Support Fund can find the link by searching for Jean on GoFundMe.

Since the creation of the GoFundMe page, which is set up so that anyone can enter their credit card information and make a donation, over 1,000 people, ranging from alumni to current students, have donated money to help Brooks.

“I have been surprised by how quickly [donations] have risen, but knowing how incredibly tight-knit and close the entire Colgate community is, past and present, it does not surprise me the generosity and concern from everyone, especially considering how amazing Jean is and how long she has been employed at Colgate,” Long said.

Brooks says she has been deeply touched bypeople’s generosity.”I’ve been crying for three days, it’s been so incredible,” Brooks said. “It’s very overwhelming for my husband and me both. We would have been okay. We weren’t that worried about [medical expenses].