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 $1.8 Million to our COVID-19 Local Response Fund, from which we have already committed over $1.6 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:
Creating Childcare Opportunities for Working Families
- 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.
Helping Families to Make Ends Meet
- In partnership with many nonprofit organizations, we have already provided many grants to assist families and small business owners in need of assistance with general expenses to help them manage their limited financial resources. Some of the greatest needs have been for assistance with rent and utility bills.
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.
- 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.
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.
- In partnership with the City of Staunton and Augusta County, we distributed CARES Act grants to our community’s nonprofit organizations to support their ability to invest in new, critical services and the infrastructure needed to offer their services safely during the pandemic. Some organizations needed to quickly transition to a virtual service platform, while others needed to reinvent their services entirely in response to the pandemic. Grants also reimbursed nonprofit organizations for certain routine expenses to ensure their ongoing viability and availability to residents in need.
Preventing the Spread of COVID-19
- In partnership with Augusta Health, we provided assistance to Augusta Expo for their role in our region’s Emergency Operations Plan and assisted Augusta Health with their preparation of isolation kits for residents who are awaiting COVID-19 test results and/or have tested positive. We also partnered with the United Way to create 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.
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!