December 9, 2020, Williamsburg, Va. – As the pandemic continues this year, the Williamsburg Community Foundation recently awarded its 5th round of grants from the Community Emergency Response Fund to local nonprofits. Eight (8) non-profits received a total of $34,000 in grants to provide food, shelter, and financial assistance to local residents who have been impacted by the pandemic:
- Avalon Center: The $2,000 grant will be used for food, clothing, medicine, and personal care products for survivors of domestic abuse. Avalon, which has seen a 50% increase in calls to its helpline recently, provides shelter, help finding employment and permanent housing, counseling, legal advocacy, transportation, life skills, tutoring and therapeutic activities for the children.
- Community of Faith Mission: As the only emergency winter shelter in the greater Williamsburg area, COFM will use this $5,000 grant to provide COVID pre-screening and/or testing to ensure the health of shelter guests and volunteers. With increased unemployment and calls to the Housing Crisis Hotline, as well as the end of the eviction moratorium on December 30, COFM anticipates more winter shelter guests this year.
- FISH: An all-volunteer organization, FISH will use this grant of $5,000 to provide food to residents in crisis. Clients are screened by United Way Community Resource Center and the Community Services Referral Network, then referred to FISH where they can receive food, as well as clothing and light housewares. This support continues to be important as residents move toward full, living wage employment and financial stability during the pandemic.
- Grove Christian Outreach: Grove Christian Outreach serves the physical and spiritual needs of Grove residents, an area sometimes called a “food dessert” due to the lack of accessible grocery stores. They will use this $5,000 grant to replenish their food pantry with perishable and nonperishable foods, and hygiene products such as soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, and feminine hygiene products. Since March, Grove has seen an average of a 158% increase in the number of visits to the food pantry. While their numbers peaked over the summer, they continue to serve many more people compared to this time last year (301 family visits to the food pantry in October 2020 vs. 185 family visits in October 2019.)
- Peninsula Agency on Aging: Many low-income seniors have struggled to pay for heating and cooling costs during the pandemic, forcing the utility companies to not currently disconnect services for non-payment, but accrue charges for an unpaid balance, causing even more rising costs for the senior. Some of these residents in their 60s and 70s continue to work, especially in hospitality, but have been laid off or had hours reduced because of the pandemic. This grant for $2,000 will help provide emergency assistance to 25 area seniors with a home energy emergency.
- The Salvation Army: Salvation Army continues to support low-income residents with food, financial assistance, and transitional housing. This grant of $5,000 will provide food gift card assistance for the holidays to 332 families affected by COVID and 68 seniors who have signed up for holiday assistance.
- Williamsburg Area Meals on Wheels: Williamsburg Area Meals on Wheels will use this $5,000 grant to support the Family Meal Project through the end of this year, providing meals twice a week to 88 families in James City County motels or low-income housing areas. One client shared how Meals on Wheels helped her family: “After losing my job last spring, I had to move into a small motel room with my three children. Our room only has a small refrigerator and nothing else to cook with. If it wasn’t for Meals on Wheels my children wouldn’t have a hot meal. They are a blessing to us!”
- Williamsburg House of Mercy: House of Mercy will use this $5,000 grant for drive-thru food pantry items such as groceries, diapers, feminine hygiene products, wipes, incontinence supplies, and toilet paper; food for its Community Kitchen, and to assist families with finding and keeping housing. House of Mercy is serving four times as many people through its Community Kitchen as before the pandemic.
These grants are made possible by donors who have contributed to a fund specifically created to support local needs related to the pandemic. The Community Emergency Response Fund was created in March 2020, and over $215,000 has been raised for the effort so far; $142,100 has been distributed. This fund can be used in the future to respond to other natural disasters in the greater Williamsburg area. This type of locally-focused endowment fund allows the community to quickly raise and deploy resources to a variety of nonprofits that can meet the most pressing needs of local residents.
“Each and everyday our office is receiving calls from individuals needing food,” said Cathie Upton, director of Meals on Wheels. “We are so very grateful to the Williamsburg Community Foundation for supporting our mission to feed those in need in our community. We have put over 75,000 meals into the community since March and could never have kept up with it without your support!”
Williamsburg Community Foundation plans to distribute another round of Community Emergency Response Fund grants before the end of the year. The WCF Distribution Committee is committed to using the funds to serve the most pressing needs, and will continue to work with local leaders to ensure that the funds are used effectively and efficiently to serve those most impacted by the pandemic.
For Background on the Community Emergency Response Fund for COVID-19, visit https://williamsburgcommunityfoundation.org/emergency-response-fund/
To learn more about applying for funding, please call the office 757-259-1660 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
(DONATE to the Community Emergency Response Fund)