Community funds take on COVID-19

BY JON VANDERFORD

Local affiliated funds of the Nebraska Community Foundation are always working to support greater Nebraska. The funds are finding new ways to help during the coronavirus pandemic.

With the challenge of COVID-19, the need for local financial support couldn’t be greater. “I think being a part of the Nebraska Community Foundation family, we were proactive in this situation,” McCook Community Foundation Fund member Mark Graff said. Since the fund’s formation in 2001, it has granted more than $300,000 to community organizations. In the face of COVID-19, advisory board members moved quickly to help. “One of the ideas was to establish an account specifically for COVID-19 relief in our area,” Graff said. “We did that, and granted $25,000 of our own funds to start the account. It’s been a God-send, and has really given us hope.” Those funds were used in a variety of ways, including the financial support of organizations that are working to meet daily needs.

In Nebraska City, the response remains strong. Melissa Turner with the Nebraska City Community Foundation Fund tells us that during social distancing, residents tried to stay connected through cruise nights downtown, or by holding virtual egg hunts. The fund also worked to put I-pads in nursing homes and assisted living centers. “The Nebraska City Community Foundation Fund has purchased some I-pads that have been distributed,” Turner said. “This allows a caregiver to help the residents stay connected with family members who can’t visit in person.”

Bulter County Area Foundation Fund members are also working to offer support during this time of crisis and social distancing. “It’s been a very challenging time, obviously all across the U.S.,” fund board member Diane Duren said. Duren says the group developed a three-prong approach to fight back against the virus. They identified a number of groups who could use immediate funding. Secondly, board members created a relief fund. “The other thing we did was we established a grant application process, and that was to specifically address other needs across Bulter County,” Duren said.

The work doesn’t stop in Nebraska City, McCook or Butler County. The Friend Area Fund also saw an initial need, and decided to get involved as far back as mid-March. “One of the first things our group did was reach out to the school administration,” fund board member Kate Vossler said. It was decided the most urgent need was to make sure the school could continue providing healthy breakfasts and lunches to students. The fund also helped with getting telehealth equipment for the local hospital. “The cost of that equipment isn’t cheap, around $42,000, and several people gave private donations,” Vossler said. “Very recently, the hospital foundation announced a fundraiser to do ‘porch pictures’,” Vossler said. The hospital foundation said it would match the first $2,500 raised, and the Friend Area Fund moved to make a similar match to help with the telehealth goal.

As the coronavirus outbreak continues, the work may be just beginning. Many other community funds are busy giving back, too. And, it’s good to know these funds are not holding back when it comes to helping others.