Community Foundation fund helps compensate nonprofits for COVID-19 costs

Thanks to The Community Foundation of Northeast Florida’s Respond/Adapt/Recover Fund, 117 local nonprofit organizations received a total of nearly $1.2 million to help offset the costs they incurred trying to re-open and continue serving clients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The grants, which ranged from $500 to $50,000, helped cover agencies’ purchases of personal protective equipment, Plexiglas and similar materials, COVID-19 training, and health testing of staff, and necessary items for social distancing and sanitation. Program transition support costs—such as those necessary to deliver services online—were also eligible for reimbursement.

The Respond/Adapt/Recover Fund, which was established at The Community Foundation this fall, was made possible with a significant gift from the Lucy Gooding Charitable Foundation Trust, as well as additional gifts from individual donors and The Community Foundation’s discretionary funds.

“These nonprofit organizations, many with limited budgets before the pandemic, suddenly were faced with overwhelming, unplanned costs that were essential to continuing to serve their clients,” said Kathleen Shaw, vice president of programs at The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, who led the vetting of nearly 150 applications. “We saw them make the anguishing decisions to ensure a safe environment for staff and clients, and we know these grants will help ease some of the financial burden that the pandemic created.”

The 117 agencies who received the grants operate across a wide spectrum of focus areas, and throughout The Community Foundation’s six county (Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau, Putnam, and St. Johns) service area.  Nearly a third of the recipient agencies have annual budgets of less than $200,000.

Agencies providing mental health services, which became even more crucial to the community during the pandemic, received grants to reimburse them for costs associated with making in person mental health services possible (Plexiglas, HEPA air filtration, deep cleaning) as well as other costs incurred to deliver some services virtually.  Clay Behavioral Health, Epic Community Services, Gateway Community Services, and Stronger than Stigma are just a few of the mental health agency recipients.

“As an essential behavioral healthcare provider, it was critical that we continue to offer our counseling and treatment services to our clients with substance use and mental health disorders,” according to a spokesperson from Epic Community Services in St. Augustine. “Yet we also had to consider the safety of everyone and mitigate the potential spread of the virus.”

Safety net agencies like Barnabas in Nassau County were on the front lines for so many residents whose jobs vanished during the pandemic. Barnabas received a grant to help with the cost to transition to a cloud-based IT system, the purchase of critical PPE supplies, and the purchase of air sanitizing systems.

“When the pandemic began, we pledged to help as many people for as long as we could,” said Barnabas President and CEO Wanda Lanier.  “Infrastructure support of our organization with this unique and critical funding is making that happen.”

Agencies such as The Arc, Pine Castle, Hope Haven, Downs Syndrome Association, BASCA, and others, often have clients with compromised health issues that need increased safety precautions. Individual contact is also extremely important to many of their clients.  More than $110,000 was made available from the fund to help these organizations recover some of those critical expenditures.

“The safety and well-being of our program participants and members of our staff drives every decision we make.”

Jim Whittaker, president and CEO of The Arc Jacksonville

“The safety and well-being of our program participants and members of our staff drives every decision we make,” said Jim Whittaker, president and CEO of The Arc Jacksonville. “Because of this generous support of our work, we are in a position to continue our services safely for individuals with intellectual and developmental differences and maintain our staff.”

Another part of the nonprofit sector devastated by the pandemic were arts and cultural nonprofits, whose live performances and in person events were halted and their traditional business models were undermined.  The Respond/Adapt/Recover Fund made grants to 19 arts organizations in our area, for a total of more than $225,000.

The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens was one of those arts organizations that received a Respond/Adapt/Recover grant to help broaden accessibility during the pandemic. “Access to the arts has the power to provide people with positive and restorative ways to express themselves through conversation, creativity and collaboration,” said Kerrie Slattery, chief advancement officer.  “Through our work, we will continue to serve as a safe place that promotes our community’s health, happiness and well-being.

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