It is in times like this that the giving nature of our community unites us in ways that will save lives. By design, Community Foundations play a key role in identifying and solving community problems. With the support of many generous donors, and in collaboration with our community partners, we are able to act quickly to meet the most urgent needs of our neighbors.
Thanks to many wonderful community members who have already donated over $1.7 Million to our COVID-19 Local Response Fund, from which we have already committed over $1.4 Million to meet the most urgent needs of our neighbors.
With the assistance of our community partners, we quickly identified the following priorities to address through this Fund:
- We believe that no resident should be without adequate shelter and the ability to isolate themselves during this pandemic. That is not a concern for many residents. For others, particularly residents who have lost their jobs or are homeless, this is a daily concern. To help ensure that residents in need have assistance with rent and mortgage payments, and that those who are without a home have shelter and space to protect their health, we are partnering with the Salvation Army units in Staunton and Waynesboro, Valley Mission, Valley Community Services Board, and Sin Barreras (Without Barriers) among other organizations. We are also appreciative of Mary Baldwin University for having provided emergency housing for residents of the Valley Mission.
Access to Food
- Due to widespread layoffs, far more community members than normal are seeking assistance from food pantries in order to provide for their families. Additionally, the need for social distancing places food-insecure residents at great risk. As a result, we have dedicated grants to assist the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, Disciples’ Kitchen, and Augusta Health to purchase and distribute fresh produce and shelf-stable food supplies through existing food pantries for all residents in need, and through Meals on Wheels for the most food-insecure senior citizens in our community.
Assistance with Personal Expenses
- In partnership with many nonprofit organizations, we have already provided many grants to assist families in need of assistance with general household expenses to help them manage their limited financial resources.
Access to Childcare
- The virtual and hybrid public school models have created a unique challenge to our community’s childcare system. Working parents must find suitable childcare in order to report to their workplace. Therefore, we have committed substantial funding to ensure that parents have access to affordable childcare.
Supporting Academic Progress
- The virtual and hybrid public school models also have the potential to significantly widen the achievement gap between students. Therefore, we have partnered with community members, the Staunton-Augusta YMCA, and Mary Baldwin University in the creation of the Staunton-Augusta-Waynesboro Tutoring Network through which students can access a wide range of online tutoring sessions each week. This has also been a welcomed outlet for adults in our community who want to make a difference and have the time and knowledge to serve as volunteer tutors.
Attending to our Mental Wellbeing
- The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has strained our community in many ways, including the mental and emotional health of our residents. For many people, these circumstances complicate pre-existing mental health challenges and addictions. The pandemic is likely to also result in widespread traumatic stress. Therefore, we have dedicated our resources to support the work of the new SAW Mental Health Task Force throughout our community, as well as grants that assisted Valley Hope Counseling Center, ARROW Project, and Valley Pastoral Counseling Center in their early transition to telehealth counseling.
Emergency medical care
- In partnership with Augusta Health, we have provided assistance to Augusta Expo for their role in our region’s Emergency Operations Plan. Augusta Health will utilize Augusta Expo in the event of a surge in patient volume. Although we share everyone’s hope that this use of Augusta Expo is not necessary, our community needs for that facility to be ready for that purpose. We have also assisted Augusta Health with their preparation of isolation kits for residents who are awaiting COVID-19 test results and/or have tested positive.
Supporting our Small Businesses
- The owners and employees of small businesses throughout our community are suffering greatly. Therefore, when F&M Bank asked us how they could assist small business owners, we chose to partner with the Staunton Creative Community Fund (SCCF). Thanks to a commitment from F&M Bank, SCCF created a loan and loan forgiveness program for entrepreneurs and small businesses. Additionally, we provided the Highland County Chamber of Commerce with a grant to continue their service to the Highland County community after having lost a significant source of their revenue when the pandemic required the cancellation of the annual Maple Festival.
- In partnership with the United Way, we provided funding for the creation of reopening kits for our region’s nonprofit organizations. Our community needs the services of these organizations, but we also want them to reopen safely for their staff and clients. The reopening kits included a supply of disposable face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and information on how to reopen safely. We also supported the special needs of individual nonprofit organizations for their reopening, such as securing custom plexiglass dividers and other supplies to protect the health of their staff and the community.
We continue to gather additional information and contributions every day in order to meet community needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic. We are also committed to adjusting those priorities as conditions evolve.
Please consider joining us in this fight to ensure the well-being of all community members during this crisis. Donate Now!