Elon senior makes gift to endow Safe Rides

He loves Elon University so much that he told his parents not to make donations to the school. Instead, senior Andrew Bennett wants to be the one to give back, and this month he made a gift so generous in support of Safe Rides that organizers have been able to expand the nighttime program with the addition of a new van.

“Since I’m fortunate enough to be in the position to make a positive impact, I’d like to be an example for others,” said Andrew Bennett, 22, a senior from Cleveland, Ohio.
The $50,000 gift, which will be made in installments over the next five years, also provides the Safe Rides organization with funding for additional staff and marketing to spread word of its services to the Elon University community.

It is one of the largest gifts ever made to the university by a current student.

“Since I’m fortunate enough to be in the position to make a positive impact, I’d like to be an example for others,” said Bennett, 22, from Cleveland, Ohio. “It’s my last chance to do something while I’m here.”

Why the Safe Rides program? During Bennett’s time at Elon he noticed the role of alcohol in student life.  One of the aspects of drinking that he observed was how important it was to have a safe way to get home, instead of walking alone or drinking and driving, which has the potential to harm others.

Safe Rides provides free transportation around the immediate area for students on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Students call the Safe Rides center, and a dispatcher notifies one of two Safe Rides sedans on the road. Each car carries three passengers in addition to a driver and navigator.

But resources have been stretched in recent years as demand for Safe Rides has outgrown the ability of two vehicles to transport students. Upward of 100 students already receive rides on Friday and Saturday nights, though far more call for assistance.

“While we don’t turn people away and tell people we can’t pick you up, sometimes it will be an hour wait, and students won’t wait that long,” said Chelsea Krieger, an Elon junior who directs the program. “They’ll either walk home or find a ride.

“It’s wonderful that someone would be interested in doing this,” she said. “It’s a great program that serves so many students on this campus.”

Supporting a program that offers responsible alternatives to drinking and driving was something important to Bennett. His gift promises to significantly enhance the scope and capabilities of Elon’s efforts. And by increasing the staffing, resources, and visibility of Safe Rides, students will have more access to and knowledge of the program. 

Helping others isn’t new to Bennett. The business marketing major served as co-president of the West Area his freshman year and has volunteered for various RSA events over the past four years. A friend of his gave to Elon last year, and when a university gift officer approached his father for financial assistance with ongoing campus improvements, Bennett felt the time was right to show his own gratitude.

And his help doesn’t appear to be finished. Bennett said he might make another gift later in life to support a school that gave so much to him in the past four years.

“My Elon experience has been a 10-out-of-10, so I’m more likely to work with Elon in a philanthropic way than anywhere else,” he said. “It’s been as good a college experience as I could have hoped for.”