Sometimes a parent loses a job. Or the family needs to get a grandmother into a nursing home. Or there’s a health crisis and bills piling up. And suddenly there isn't enough money to pay for a child’s tuition and books at Penn State. Penn State’s Emergency Loan Fund can mean the difference between a student dropping out and getting a degree—and the money all comes from a unique Microfinance Match Fund, which is raising money through a special handmade tapestry.
The distinctive wool tapestry, designed by the head of Penn State’s graphic design department and Distinguished Professor Lanny Sommese—famously known for designing each year’s Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts poster—features blue and red interlacing hands and is called “Hand in Hand.” Sommese says the interwoven fingers represent one generation of Penn Staters helping another.
The “Hand in Hand” effort will be officially launched at an April 15 event in Philadelphia. A reception and gallery showing of the “Hand in Hand” tapestry will begin at 4:00 p.m., at the Rosenfeld Gallery, owned by Penn Stater Stephan Rosenfeld ’73, in Old City Philadelphia. Penn State basketball Coach Pat Chambers, a Philadelphia native, will be on hand to co-host the event. More information on the free event is online at www.handinhandpsu.com, where the tapestry can also be viewed. Each tapestry, priced at $300, is made by artisans at the Langhorne Carpet Company in Bucks County, Pa., using traditional punch card-style Jacquard Wilton looms.
All proceeds from tapestry sales will be used to help grow Penn State’s Microfinance Match Fund, founded in 2011 by Tom Sharbaugh ’73 and his wife, Kristin Hayes. Similar to microfinance programs that make small loans to borrowers in developing countries, the Penn State Microfinance Match Fund supplies emergency loans of $1,500 to $2,000 to undergraduates who require urgent assistance. When the borrower repays the loan, the money goes back into the fund from which future loans are given to other borrowers in need. Thus, the system becomes self-perpetuating and sustainable. The seed idea for bringing microfinancing to Penn State came to Sharbaugh following his daughter’s internship with the Grameen Foundation, whose founders, Muhammed Yunus and Grameen Bank, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for working to fight global poverty by providing loans for the poor.
Penn State is the first college or university to use the microfinance idea to help its own students in need. Read more background on Penn State’s involvement here. Since the fund’s inception, more than $200,000 has been raised for Penn State’s Microsoft Match Fund.
In addition to purchasing a limited-edition “Hand in Hand” tapestry, tax-deductible donations of any amount can be made to the Microfinance Matching Fund. Give now or learn more about the Microfinance Match Fund. Whether it’s one dollar or one hundred dollars, every donation makes a difference by paying it forward to keep Penn Staters in school.