Region’s Foundations Enter Next Phase of Pandemic Relief
Food Share of Ventura County saw huge increases during the pandemic in both demand for food and support from donors and other nonprofits. The food bank was one of the recipients of the Ventura County Community Foundation’s relief fund. (courtesy photo)
Santa Barbara County’s COVID-19 Joint Response Effort closed its relief fund in mid-July after distributing $5.8 million, though other relief funds throughout the region remain active and are still helping people, businesses and nonprofits make it through the pandemic.
The Santa Barbara Foundation, the Ventura County Community Foundation and the Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County have all raised and distributed money and helped coordinate relief efforts by other nonprofits. In Santa Barbara County, the foundation teamed with the United Way of Santa Barbara County and the Hutton Parker Foundation to form what Santa Barbara Foundation CEO Jackie Carrera called “a three-legged stool.”
The three groups met weekly for 65 weeks to organize and distribute the funds. Of the $5.8 million, $3.2 million was given to other nonprofits for their relief efforts, and $2.6 million went directly to people in need.
In both cases, the money was targeted to those who were most vulnerable to the pandemic. The types of nonprofits that received grants included those who worked with senior living, essential workers, students, and people with health issues.
“To be a part of a partnership at a time like this is not only important but a relief, and it has been a pleasure to work with them through this process,” Carrera said.
The COVID-19 Joint Response Effort closed as of July 14. COVID-19 cases have since risen while vaccination rates have stalled, and Carrera said the nonprofits are evaluating where their attention should turn now.
The Ventura County Community Foundation also had a variety of programs in place to respond to the pandemic. Ventura County Rapid Response Fund has granted more than $1.5 million to nonprofits that support basic needs such as food and housing, childcare, wage replacement and mental healthcare.
Similar to the Santa Barbara Foundation, the Ventura County Community Foundation partnered with other nonprofits and government agencies for the Ventura County Rapid Response Fund. The county of Ventura, Amgen Foundation, Southeast Ventura County YMCA, Give An Hour, and the Economic Development Collaborative were all included.
Homeless shelters, veterans, farmworkers, senior care, and rental assistance are just a few of the organizations that received funding, said Ventura County Community Foundation CEO Vanessa Bechtel. Safe Passage, a nonprofit that supports youth, delivered over 140,000 meals to children and dispersed 60,000 diapers to families.
“I also really saw this time, more than any other time in my life, the cumulative effect we can all have when we pull together,” Bechtel said. The support from thousands of first-time donors in Ventura County made a huge impact, she said.
The foundation’s relief funds are still active. “We’re just pivoting in terms of how we’re helping to make sure it’s relevant and current,” Bechtel said.
In San Luis Obispo County, the Community Foundation San Luis Obispo launched the Disaster Support Fund in March 2020. “It is money in, money out,” CEO Heidi McPherson said about the rapid-response program.
“We got hundreds and hundreds of contributions for a county that has less than 300,000 people in it,” she said. “That’s pretty extraordinary.”
These contributions helped the community in many ways, including giving funds to programs such as daycare for first responders at the start of the pandemic. The SLO Food Bank also received funds and partnered with other organizations to expand its outreach — for example, by working with senior-serving nonprofits to get meals to older residents who were stuck in their homes.
The Disaster Support fund is closed now, but The Community Foundation San Luis Obispo is still accepting contributions and is prepared to reopen it as needed, McPherson said.
This story was originally published in Pacific Coast Business Times.