Philanthropy steps up during the COVID-19 crisis

5/21/2020, 6 p.m.
The rapid spread of COVID-19 has created a statewide and global health and economic crisis that is testing the fabric ...

The rapid spread of COVID-19 has created a statewide and global health and economic crisis that is testing the fabric of people and communities and area charities as needs expand.

Central Virginia philanthropic foundations are playing an important role in addressing the immediate and long-term implications of the coro- navirus crisis by offering everything from food to families and special grocery shopping hours for seniors and donating personal supplies and resources to front line workers.

The Central Virginia COVID- 19 Response Fund, created by The Community Foundation for a Greater Richmond and the Emergency Man- agement Alliance of Central Virginia, has raised more than $4.6 million to support organizations providing help to families and individuals most affected by the coronavirus pandemic crisis.

Donations to the fund have come from businesses, individuals and faith communities, with the United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg managing online donations.

The United Way also matched up to $100,000 in donations to the fund made through its website.

“The COVID-19 crisis is impacting the community both positively and negatively at the same time,” said James L.M. Taylor, president and chief executive officer of the United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg.

“The positive side, we stepped in as the front door for donations to the Central Virginia COVID-19 Response Fund,” he said. “On the negative side, a lot of our normal group presentations or workplace fundraising activities are impossible due to COVID-19 restrictions.” This means most of the United Way’s campaigns have been wrapped up for the fiscal year and the remaining events won’t happen.

When public schools across the state were shut down in March to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Richmond Public Schools announced it would beef up its online learning for students. However, thousands of city students were without access to laptops and internet service.

To help bridge the gap, The Community Foundation donated $500,000 and $125,000 came from the Robins Foundation to help RPS reach its ultimate goal of $1 million for student technology needs.

About $300,000 of The Community Foundation’s award came from the Central Virginia COVID-19 Response Fund, $100,000 from the R.E.B. Foundation and $100,000 from an anonymous donor.

The Community Foundation also issued a $150,000 challenge to help the school system meet the goal by the end of May. More than $80,000 has been raised toward that challenge.

Overall, The Community Foundation “earned grants totaling $1.1 million and donated to 25 organizations providing immediate support to those most impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Sherrie Armstrong, president and chief executive officer of The Community Foundation.

“We provide grants to safety net clinics like CrossOver Healthcare Ministry that work with the uninsured population for free health care, to help with increased staffing, conversion to tele-health delivery and coordinating safe access to appointments and medication,” she said.

Funding also has gone to homeless service providers for staffing, supply costs and new shelter options, staffing costs and cleaning supplies for a shelter for victims of domestic violence and child care centers for essential personnel, according to the foundation’s website.

Mr. Taylor wants the community to know that United Way is focusing on bringing people together to solve problems and help others.

“Check on your neighbors, especially the older ones, and look at what you can do to help them out,” he said.