United Way uses COVID-19 fund to support organizations making local impact

Five months ago when the COVID-19 pandemic caused drastic changes to the livelihoods of many people in our communities, the United Way of Clark, Champaign and Madison Counties knew it needed to find a way to help.

“We knew that our current non-profits were already feeling the strain of declining philanthropy for lots of reasons, but then on top of that, they were going to have an increased need for the services they offer,” says Kerry Pedraza, executive director of the United Way of Clark, Champaign and Madison Counties.

In response, the organization created the COVID-19 Community Fund with a purpose of supporting other local organizations that are helping residents in need of food and who are struggling to pay for housing and utilities.

“Our community, in wonderful fashion as it always does, came to the need of others,” Pedraza says, adding that in Clark County alone more than $125,000 was raised in less than three months.

Though the local United Way supports all three counties, donations are kept separate and able to support the county designated by the donor.

“What we also know is that we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg right now. For those in social services, we are really concerned because we know that at some point the moratorium on evictions and the moratorium shut offs is going to have to come to an end,” Pedraza says.

In helping people who need shelter, Pedraza says the needs to keep families in isolated spaces rather than in congregate settings has created an additional challenge for local organizations because the cost of finding individualized housing spaces is much greater than group settings.

And because organizations such as Second Harvest Food Bank were seeing increases up to 55 percent in the number of people they’re serving, Pedraza says the local United Way decided it was time to give out the first round of support from the COVID-19 Community Fund.

A variety of local organizations – including the Clark County Combined Health District, Interfaith Hospitality Network, the Neighborhood Housing Partnership, Second Harvest Food Bank, The Salvation Army, and St. Vincent de Paul – have recently been awarded funding to help support their missions. About $65,000 was awarded during this first round.

Typically, a portion of donations made to most non-profit organizations is used for administrative fees – for example, to pay employee salaries or for supplies needed to run an organization. But that isn’t the case for the COVID-19 Community Fund.

“The board and the staff were adamant that during this time and crisis, every penny would go back to the community,” Pedraza says.

The organizations that sought COVID-19 fund money had to provide United Way with a proposal that included the increase in the number of people served and what they believed the increase would be between Aug. 1 and Dec. 31.

“There aren’t enough words to express our gratitude to those who have given to the COVID-19 fund,” Pedraza says. “I think that with any horrendous event – like this pandemic has been – I think it brings out the best in people,” she says. “All of us have the ability to give a little. The hallmark of what United Way is – is if everybody gives a little, we all become a much stronger community.”

Pedraza says there were some large donations to the fund from local businesses, but she added that there have been and continue to be many smaller donations coming from local families and individuals. She emphasized how important every donation – no matter how big or small – is in helping grow the fund to continue providing support.

Individuals or businesses interested in donating to the COVID-19 Community Fund can use the link on the local United Way's website, call 937-324-5551 to arrange time to drop off a donation, or mail their donation to  the Clark County United Way Office, P.O. Box 59, Springfield, OH 45501.

The United Way also will be kicking-off its annual giving campaign in the next few weeks. People can donate through this campaign the same as they would throughout the year, but many area businesses also offer the opportunity for employees to designate an amount from each paycheck – as little as $1 per pay period – to the United Way, Pedraza says. Any businesses interested in participating in this kind of giving campaign can call the local United Way office to make arrangements.

“We are always hoping to get more businesses who are willing to give their employees the opportunity to give,” Pedraza says. “The simple truth is if you give a $1 out of your paycheck you never even know it’s gone, but the power of that $52 is phenomenal – especially with combine it with other dollars behind it.”

Read more articles by Natalie Driscoll.

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