Community connections empower COVID response

A month ago, Nebraska Community Foundation’s Chief Operating Officer K.C. Belitz identified the roles fund advisory committees can play during the COVID-19 pandemic. First on that list was Convener and Connector.

As Belitz put it: “For years, NCF has been talking about the importance of building relationships before you need them. Now is the time to utilize those relationships to the fullest and make important connections that your FAC is uniquely positioned to make.”

FAC members did just that as the pandemic began to make its presence felt in Greater Nebraska. In communities across the NCF network, affiliated funds—already rooted in hometowns after years or decades of service—reached out to neighbors over phone calls and through computer monitors to determine where to direct their time, talent and treasure. Those previously established relationships inspired a networkwide chain reaction as affiliated funds sprung into action.

Bertrand Area Community Fund FAC members, for instance, contacted the school, nursing home, village officials, senior center and food pantry to assess what the most urgent needs were for each entity. During those preliminary discussions, they learned that the nursing home did not have the required amount of protection nor sanitation supplies to be prepared should the virus appear within its walls.

“The Bertrand Nursing Home and Assisted Living expressed a high need for help,” said BACF Advisory Committee Member Beverly Hansen. “They had a very small supply of PPE masks, face shields, shoe covers, gowns, hand sanitizer, and COVID-19 cleaning items. The health department had stated that they need to have a minimum of four weeks supply of these items, but recommends six weeks. That presents a huge problem.”

Those talks resulted in the approval of a $5,000 grant to purchase supplies, as well as making another $5,000 available if the need arose.

In Holt County, members of the Stuart Community Foundation Fund FAC held a meeting with representatives from major pillars of the community, including the school, healthcare clinic, assisted living and long-term care facility, churches, childcare facilities, volunteer fire department, village and business. That meeting, held via Zoom, allowed the community to lay the framework for how to prioritize future action and grantmaking priorities.

Kinder Haus daycare center in Eustis received a grant after members of the Eustis Area Community Foundation Fund contacted the school, village, senior center, grocery store, and the daycare center to see how they could be of assistance.

Hansen said preparation and relationship-building was key to their ability to help the community.

“Our advice to other funds is save a reserve amount of funds to address a local, regional and national emergency,” Hansen said. “Develop relationships and regularly communicate with your schools; elderly facilities and village/city administrator. Be aware of what is happening and going on in your community!”

Throughout the state, affiliated funds are positioned to help. A conversation is all it takes to get the ball rolling.

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