COVID-19 Response Fund shows power of partnerships, helps thousands in the Shenandoah Valley

COVID-19 Response Fund shows power of partnerships, helps thousands in the Shenandoah Valley

SHENANDOAH VALLEY, Va. (WVIR) - The COVID-19 Local Response Fund has helped thousands of people in the Shenandoah Valley, keeping many from financial ruin. Tuesday marks one year since the fund was created.

The Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge started the fund as a way for people to help their neighbors through COVID-19, but it’s also showing the power of partnerships in addressing real issues.

“The work is intense. The work is nonstop,” stated the Foundation’s President and CEO Dan Layman.

The fund launched with a $100,000 donation. “Our hope was to see that matched through other donations,” said Layman. $1.8 million later, it’s now a year old.

“Some people have signed their stimulus checks over to fund, and that there are some people who just donate a hundred dollars a month,” Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge’s Communications Director Miriam Burrows said.

The fund streamlines the money, and the SAW Local Response Fund Coalition determines the needs.

“The School Board and City Council and you know the for-profit people and the non-profit people are all coming together,” said Burrows. Players from Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County come to the virtual table every two weeks. “To say what do we do? What are you seeing and what do we do?” said Burrows.

“It initially needed to be used to fill some immediate gaps,” said Layman.

Food insecurity is a big problem. The first funds helped the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, then people slipping through the cracks like homebound senior citizens and the homeless.

“Housing insecurity has required significant financial support,” said Layman.

The fund has helped other existing issues exacerbated by the pandemic like mental health.

“While we had good agencies doing good work in the community, there was very little relation between any of them,” said Layman. The new SAW Mental Health Task Force is addressing this. “There’s much more access to affordable mental healthcare now and there’s support systems in place for certain groups,” said Layman.

All kinds of partnerships have formed addressing community needs. The C4 initiative is providing affordable childcare. The SAW Tutoring Network is closing learning gaps created by virtual learning.

“I think everyone now sees the merits in assessing what assets they bring to the table and reaching out to other organizations for the assets that they bring to the table and piecing it all together in a way that makes sense for the community,” stated Layman.

The COVID-19 Local Response Fund is proof that partnerships work. “If we’re going to have big solutions no one organization can and should take that on themselves,” said Layman.

He adds that COVID has really highlighted issues of equity, and there’s still a ways to go in the community.

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