Panther Family Steps Up in Wake of Fire
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA — From a GoFundMe campaign to a safe place to stay for academic assistance, Florida Tech and the extended Chi Phi family came together in the wake of a fire Sept. 3 that destroyed the fraternity’s storage barn.
No one was injured in the evening fire, but there were significant property losses.
The two-story, 4,500-square-foot storage building and eight smaller, attached storage units contained many items, including gym equipment, a bike, and furniture.
“So much was gone,” said Cat Nanney, Florida Tech’s director of student involvement, who was on the scene within 15 minutes of fire trucks arriving.
There was some relatively good news, however: Irreplaceable fraternity records dating back to the chapter’s charter more than 50 years ago and other historical documents kept in the storage area were recovered with only minor damage.
In the spirit of rebuilding and recovery that followed the fire, the Chi Phi Alumni Association and the fraternity’s House Corporation Board launched a GoFundMe campaign to support rebuilding the barn.
The nine members who live in the fraternity house were temporarily relocated after the fire, which initial investigations indicate was electrical in origin.
Nanney quickly began working with colleagues across campus to make things a bit better.
“Let’s get them on campus and make them feel a little more comfortable,” she said of those initial efforts.
Greg Connell, assistant vice president of housing and campus services, and Dining Services Director Tom Stewart, got the students housing in the Panther Bay apartments and vouchers for meals at Panther Dining Hall.
Dean of Students Rodney Bowers alerted the students’ professors to the disruption the students were experiencing, starting with being at the scene until after midnight.
The university response, Nanney said, was built on compassion and training.
“I told the members, ‘We are going to take care of you. It’s what we do,’” Nanney said.