In the middle of last March, our community drastically changed in a matter of days. The pandemic effects were immediate, and demand quickly skyrocketed for local nonprofits serving people who were disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The Omaha Community Foundation swiftly organized the COVID-19 Response Fund – and donors from across the community generously responded with donations totaling $1.5 million.
The Foundation was committed to distributing funds to nonprofits quickly, with the first grant distributions made on April 3, 2020. A total of 51 local nonprofits received funding. Now, a year later, we spoke with staff from several nonprofits that serve vulnerable children and families. We wanted to hear about how the funds had benefitted residents and how their communities are faring now.
Vulnerable Families Get Technology for At-Home Learning
The funding Completely KIDS received enabled the organization to purchase technology and school supplies to support virtual afterschool programming, to implement new public health protocols, and to expand mental health services for youth. Adrielle Griffin, chief marketing and development officer of Completely KIDS said,
“The funding helped us to adjust very quickly, and we have continued to adapt throughout the year,”
Completely KIDS works predominantly with Latino families who have disproportionately contracted the coronavirus in the Metro, which means these families, along with the staff at Completely KIDS, have dealt with the physical repercussions of illness. For families in poverty, their everyday stressors have only increased since the pandemic began. Parents have to make hard choices about whether to pay the heating bill or buy food. Some are homeless and moving from place to place with little stability. Adrielle says, “Children have seen a loss of connection with friends, the staff they trust, and, for some, a safe environment.”
Mental Wellness and Emergency Food Service Support Latinx Families
Families in Action Omaha focused their funding on emergency food services and mental wellness support for their clients, primarily Latina women and their families. Weekly online charlitas (“little chats” in Spanish) and virtual Zumba classes have been a lifeline for a community of women who are experiencing a number of additional stressors at work, home, and school because of the pandemic.
The staff at Families in Action have been impressed with the level of hope the women and families they serve have maintained. They attribute this strength to a healthy community, learned resiliency through familiarity with struggle, and the services that Families in Action have provided.
“Our clients were the first ones to lose hours at work and the first to get sick, yet they are resilient and strong. Holding on to a sense of community is important and protective to families,”
said Kaela Volkmer, Development Director of Families in Action Omaha.
Childcare Providers Receive Hard-to-Access Supplies
Since the pandemic began, Nebraska Early Childhood Collaborative (NECC) responded very quickly to the urgent needs of small in-home childcare center owners who did not have access to essential resources they needed to stay open during the pandemic. With the additional funding from the COVID-19 Response Fund, NECC provided more of these supplies—including thermometers, masks, gloves, and bleach. Shannon Cotsoradis, NECC’s President & CEO said,
“I’ve never had so many touching notes as when we delivered thermometers to small providers!”
When speaking of the current state of childcare centers, Shannon remains concerned. “We had a tenuous situation before, and the pandemic has driven home how fragile our childcare system is.” She speaks to the necessity of childcare being available to parents if the nation is to recover economically. “We treat it as a private system, but it’s really a public good.” Now, these childcare businesses are struggling to stay afloat financially. “They are worried about the health of the children they care for, their own health, finances, low enrollment, and the families who are unable to pay. They are feeling empathy saturation; these are caring people. You don’t go into it because of the financial reward,” Shannon says.
Omaha’s Philanthropic Community Showed Up
The strength of the Omaha metro philanthropic community made all of this and more possible. Nonprofits widely praise the generosity of the Omaha community and its quick action to support them through the COVID-19 Response Fund. They speak to donors’ tremendous support, flexibility, and willingness to step in to give during this difficult season. Time and time again, we’ve heard nonprofit leaders say, “There’s no place like Omaha.” As we transition into 2021 and greater hope of life beyond the pandemic, this strong foundation of support will be an important way for our community to rebuild.
See the Response Fund Recipients