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 $345,000 to our COVID-19 Local Response Fund, from which we have already committed over $292,000 to meet the most urgent needs of our neighbors.
With the assistance of our community partners, we identified the following priorities to begin addressing immediately through this Fund:
Emergency medical care
- As part of its standard 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. Therefore, we granted $10,000 to Augusta Expo to replace lost operating income due to their need to cancel all events until the need for social distancing has passed. We stand prepared to partner with Augusta Expo and Augusta Health to ensure that our community members can receive the medical care that they need.
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 dedicated over $22,000 to support the work of Valley Hope Counseling Center, ARROW Project, and Valley Pastoral Counseling Center, each of which has transitioned to telehealth counseling and pledged to continue offering affordable care for our community.
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 already dedicated $61,000 to assist the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, Disciples’ Kitchen, and a partnership between Augusta Health, Allegheny Mountain Institute, Blue Ridge Area Food Bank and Valley Program for Aging Services working together 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 them self 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. Therefore, we have already committed $91,000 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. To accomplish this we are partnering with the Salvation Army units in Staunton and Waynesboro to distribute rent and mortgage assistance, as well as Valley Mission, Valley Community Services Board, and Mary Baldwin University to provide proper housing for our homeless neighbors.
Access to childcare for essential workers
- The combination of the closure of schools and the need for social distancing has created a unique challenge to our community’s childcare system. While many parents are now working from home, others are considered “essential workers” and must find suitable childcare in order to report to their workplace. Therefore, we have committed $22,500 in partnership with the Waynesboro Family YMCA and Highland Children’s House to ensure that parents who are essential workers have access to affordable childcare.
Assistance with Personal Expenses
- In partnership with many nonprofit organizations, we have already provided over $33,000 to assist families in need of assistance with general household expenses to help them manage their limited financial resources.
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 $25,000 commitment from F&M Bank, which includes a $15,000 grant from our F&M Bank Community Fund, SCCF has created a loan and loan forgiveness program for entrepreneurs and small businesses. Additionally, we provided the Highland County Chamber of Commerce with a grant of $25,000 to continue their service to the Highland County community having a significant source of their revenue when the pandemic required the cancellation of the annual Maple Festival.
We are gathering 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!