Above: Volunteers build Power Packs at P.B. Smith Elementary School on April 26, 2020 as part of Fauquier FISH’s Weekend Power Pack program. Each bag contains enough food to feed a family of four for the weekend, providing hunger relief beyond just the individual child. Jess Beach along with other volunteers help build Power Packs during the first of two volunteer shifts on Sunday at P.B. Smith Elementary School.
Photo by Jud McCrehin Photography
As the effects of the pandemic continue to unfold, local aid foundations continue to evolve to meet the needs of the community
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned everyone’s world upside down, with some hit harder than others as far as very basic needs that we can sometimes take for granted. Our local philanthropic organizations have stepped up and taken a huge role in responding to this humanitarian crisis. The PATH Foundation and the Northern Piedmont Community Foundation, while separate entities that operate on very different scales, share common values and acted immediately to support the community. Principally this meant providing support to local nonprofits already in place to enable them to meet the dramatically increased needs.
There are a lot of moving parts to this huge response, of course. So clearly communication and collaboration are crucial. Executive Director of NPCF Jane Bowling-Wilson explained, “The community has a network of funders, and we all need to talk to each other so we have a sense of what’s going where and where the holes are. We also keep in touch with the nonprofits themselves to see how they’re progressing and what they need from us.”
Through this, both foundations have come to realize that what was coming together is very valuable, a little bit of a silver lining. “I have to say, one of the only advantages of the pandemic is that through all this crisis and horrific news there is a great team in our community coming together to provide support. It sounds corny, but it really is vital,” Bowling-Wilson concluded.
The PATH Foundation Response: A Change in Plans
“All the priorities we had in place in early March have kind of flown out the window and we are now totally in a COVID response mode,” said Christy Connolly, President and CEO of the PATH Foundation in Warrenton.
Since 2013, the PATH Foundation has consistently been a driving force in our community as a philanthropic organization supporting local nonprofits working to assist those in need in our community. While they have given grants to a wide range of organizations, their focus areas include providing access to health, childhood wellness and nutrition, mental health, and senior services.
In March, the sheer number of people in need of those services — and more — skyrocketed due to the massive unemployment following the COVID response. PATH had never faced critical needs on this scale with such an urgent timeline.
“It’s been a balancing act,” said Connolly, as PATH tried to address early emergent needs and to anticipate and prepare for whatever is coming next. “It’s coming in waves, we have to respond to each stage as it comes. It’s a moving target. We’ve never experienced anything like this before. The ripple effects are going to be with us for some time.”
The situation initially required quick adjustments to existing plans to direct funds where they were most needed. “We were able to respond quickly in part because we already are partnering with these nonprofits on a regular basis. We know them,” said Connolly.
Early preparations in mid March in anticipation of what was to come focused on what were sure to be needed immediately: food and health care. That first round of donations went out on March 13 to the Fauquier Free Clinic, Fauquier FISH, and the Northern Piedmont Community Foundation’s Emergency Response Fund. Connolly said, “I’d say probably because of the immediacy of the issue we’ve spent considerable time on the food system right up front, supporting efforts to help Fauquier County Public Schools “grab and go” food distribution for children, as well as supplying food for seniors.”
Another round of grants went out on March 30, continuing to support food availability and addressing needs that were still emerging. These went to Community Touch, Fauquier Community Food Bank, FISH, Boys and Girls Club, Fauquier County Child Care for health care workers and first responders, the Fauquier Free Clinic, more to the NPCF Emergency Response Fund, and to provide wifi hotspots throughout the county.
Also on the list: “We find ourselves looking at housing, and supporting SAFE and addressing the domestic abuse issue which has certainly been on the rise,” Connolly added.
Then they could turn to the non-emergency but no less crucial needs. “We really had an increased need for translation services on the help lines,” Connolly said. “We also donated to nonprofit journalism; we want to make sure people are telling the story right now.”
Our local businesses are hurting, and our community depends on them for our economy. “So supporting the Fauquier Chamber of Commerce we think is important. We want to make sure that they are still there in the future to provide infrastructure for the recovering business community,” said Connolly.
Next round of funding planned really addresses the food supply problems at the root. According to Connolly, “We’re looking at the Fauquier Livestock Exchange. Farmers and 4-H kids had animals ready for sale, and there are no sales. So we are trying to make sure we can get that food purchased and processed and delivered to the food banks, or delivered to programs that are creating ready to go meals. It really is taking a look at the whole food system from start to finish.”
As they continue to navigate this new paradigm, PATH’s role has continued to be much more than allocating funds. This situation has created new, unprecedented needs and support tasks that need to be addressed which PATH has taken on. Connolly said, “I think one of the things with us having such a geographic territory is that we touch a little bit of everything. Our role as a philanthropist investor in the community is still there and is very important, but I think it’s also just the way we’re engaged and trying to be involved in many other facets of the community response as well. There’s been financial investment, but there’s also been a lot of other things.”
Channeling funds to address emergency needs does have repercussions for the future, of course, as valuable nonprofits providing non-emergency services temporarily receive less funding. “This does affect other donations, of course. We are thinking of other organizations that have felt the effects of revenue loss. I’m hoping that we’re going to be able to open some grant opportunities as soon as this summer that will be further reaching than the emergency response that we’re in right now. We are trying to be cognizant of what the ripple effect of this is down the road,” concluded Connolly.
The PATH Foundation
Areas served: Fauquier, Rappahannock, and Northern Culpeper Counties
Mission: To strengthen the health and vitality of our community
Focus: Health, Childhood Wellness, Mental Health, Senior Services
Northern Piedmont Community Foundation Response: The Emergency Response Fund: NCPF adjusts to more effectively manage both donor giving and community need through the COVID-19 crisis.
Residents of Fauquier County will recognize the name of Northern Piedmont Community Foundation’s main fundraiser, Give Local Piedmont, held every year in May. “The whole point of Give Local Piedmont is to highlight what the nonprofit businesses do in our communities and to try to get new donors to those organizations,” said Executive Director Jane Bowling-Wilson. Give Local Piedmont hit a new high this year by raising over $1.2 million for 176 local nonprofits.
There is much more to NCPF than Give Local in May. Year-round they actively advocate for nonprofit organizations, and manage and distribute donated funds for charitable purposes.
By the beginning of March, NCPF knew that a local philanthropic response would be critical in the weeks to come during the pandemic. They shifted into high gear to allocate the funds that they could to organizations that were positioned to address critical needs.
On March 13, Bowling-Wilson presented a preliminary plan to the Board of Directors specifically addressing the waves of needs that were sure to come with the chaos of COVID-19. The result was the NPCF Emergency Response Fund, a new pooled fund with more flexibility to facilitate community giving and designated for the specific situations resulting from the pandemic. The fund was initially created with money from the Mary Virginia O’Bannon Fund, a general bequest fund managed by NPCF. Then the PATH Foundation generously contributed quite a lot, and that was supplemented by private donors and grants from other community organizations. Give Local this year included an option to donate to the general COVID response fund, and many organizations that are on the front line received donations directly.
Where did the funding go?
Initially, priority was given to critical service organizations addressing food, children’s needs, and shelter. Bowling-Wilson explained, “For instance, we addressed the need for child care for parents who had to go to work: first responders, medical staff, anyone who couldn’t stay home with their kids.”
Supporting local business also came to be a priority. “We have not ventured into small business loans or the Payment Protection Plans, but what we have done is worked with organizations who can distribute those funds. Experience Old Town Warrenton received a grant, which they are awarding to the unemployed and small businesses.”
Getting funds out quickly was also important as the community’s needs were so crucial and so immediate. “We streamlined our grant application process because we knew we needed to get funds out fast; now there is an average a short two-week turnaround for organizations to receive those funds,” said Bowling-Wilson.
Planning for the Future
No one knows what the future will bring, or how long the effects of COVID-19 will continue. So how to plan? “We have to stay focused on where the needs are, and we also have to look ahead. The situation is certainly still evolving; we’re not through with this. I think the needs are going to come in waves. We’re fairly stable right now with the basics, but we also have to plan. Due to the massive unemployment, I think both food and shelter are going to continue to be a huge issue.”
Northern Piedmont Community Foundation
Areas served: Fauquier, Rappahannock, Culpeper, Madison Counties
Mission: To strengthen our communities through philanthropy, by managing and investing funds and actively advocating for charitable organizations to manage and distribute donated funds for charitable purposes.
Focus: Culture, education, human services, environmental conservation, nature and animals, and youth and community.
Funding: Funds are raised by bequests, individual donors, and grants from other community foundations. Donors can specify funds to be donated to a specific nonprofit, a specific category, or to be distributed by the NPCF as needed.