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Coronavirus fund distributes more than $1 million in grants to Central Virginia organizations

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Posted at 7:36 PM, Apr 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-15 07:00:16-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Funds are being released from a collective, $4.2 million pool intended to help groups provide resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Twenty-five regional organizations are receiving more than $1.1 million in grants. The grantees fall under four categories: safety net clinics, food access organizations, housing and education.

The pool of money was created through a partnership between the Community Foundation and the Emergency Management Alliance of Central Virginia, a group of professionals that aims to help local residents dealing with disasters, according to the organizations’ sites. The fund, dubbed the Central Virginia COVID-19 Response Fund, was activated in March with an initial gift from the Community Foundation, a Richmond-based organization that manages more than 1,000 charitable funds.

The fund has raised more than $4.2 million to date from foundations, businesses and individuals across the region, the partners said. An advisory committee will review and distribute grants from the fund on a rolling basis.

The fund is currently focused on providing support for those most likely to contract the virus or those whose health could be further compromised because of barriers to food access, healthcare or stable shelter.

“We are currently targeting those on the frontline that need to pivot and adapt quickly to an ever-increasing demand for their services,” Scott Blackwell, chief community engagement officer at the Community Foundation, said in a news release .

The groups came together in September 2018 to create a disaster relief fund, according to Sherrie Armstrong, president and CEO for the Community Foundation. With the fund already in place, the two groups activated the COVID-19 response in March and began raising money.

Organizations receiving grants in the food access category include FeedMore, Neighborhood Resource Center and Sacred Heart Center. The FeedMore funding will support staffing at the organization’s community kitchen, while Sacred Heart Center’s money will provide food, baby formula, hygiene supplies and other necessities.

Health related organizations receiving aid include Daily Planet Health Services, Jewish Family Services, Richmond Academy of Medicine and YWCA of Richmond. The grants will help with a range of causes, ranging from the production of protective face masks for essential workers to support for a COVID-19 testing site for homeless individuals.

Richmond Public Schools’ grant will go toward the purchase of 10,000 Chromebooks for students who need them to access education while schools are closed. Armstrong predicted that the RPS funding will ensure “that everyone has access to the internet and technology with everything that’s going on.”

The United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg is providing $100,000 in matching dollars to incentivize new donations made through United Way’s website. The organization was involved in the early conversations of where a fund “might live,” according to James Taylor, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg. As needs continued to grow in Central Virginia, United Way wanted to be “good partners” to help in relief efforts.

“As the response began from a fund-raising standpoint, it became clear that the needs were going to continue to grow,” Tayor said.

There are 6,171 COVID-19 cases in Virginia as of April 14. There have been 154 deaths and 978 hospitalizations, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

The relief is designed to be flexible and to complement other resources and responses at the national, state and local levels, organizers said.

The fund is not taking formal applications, but nonprofits and public agencies can share their needs through this form, according to the Community Foundation’s site. Individuals seeking help are encouraged to call 211 or visit 211Virginia.org for a curated list of local social services.

By Rodney Robinson