When the Camas-Washougal Community Chest announced in early March that it had selected 28 nonprofits to receive $110,000 worth of grants, the COVID-19 crisis was just beginning to unfold.
More than two months into a crisis that has killed more than 100,000 Americans, shuttered businesses and banned large-group gatherings throughout the state, the world looks a lot different.
In fact, many of the nonprofit programs selected for the 2020 Community Chest grants have had to cancel their programs due to the COVID-19 shutdowns. Others, especially those providing essential services like food and shelter for at-risk families, found their needs increased during the shutdown.
“The closure of schools and associated loss of food security for children, combined with the increase in unemployment and impact of the illness itself has had a devastating effect on our community. The Community Chest knew that we had to act,” said Joelle Scheldorf, co-president of the Community Chest.
In April, after the Camas Sister City Organization returned its grant award due to a program cancellation, Community Chest leaders began to wonder if other grant recipients might be willing to turn over their unusable grants to help fund more direct services for low-income residents and at-risk youth.
After reaching out to the 28 nonprofits to find out which grant recipients had to cancel their grant-funded programs and which had seen an increased need since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, the Community Chest collected $20,500 in returned grant money and seven applications for emergency grants.
The group announced this week that it has awarded $30,000 in supplemental grants — a combination of the reallocated grant money plus recent donations from individuals — to local organizations.
“Together with the grant recipients who were able to return funds, we were able to pivot and quickly fund relief efforts for local residents,” Scheldorf said.
The supplemental funds include:
- $9,000 to Family Promise of Clark County to provide temporary housing and food/hygiene assistance for families experiencing homelessness;
- $5,000 to the Inter-faith Treasure House for a school food backpack program and free weekly meal service;
- $5,000 to the Children’s Home Society of Washington at the East County Family Resource Center for its school food backpack program;
- $3,500 to Impact Camas-Washougal and St. Matthews Lutheran Church to provide food assistance for families in need;
- $3,000 to REACH Community Development to provide school supplies for students and food, rent and utility assistance for low-income families;
- $2,500 for the Clark County Veterans Assistance Center for food boxes and free meals for veterans; and
- $2,000 to the Meals on Wheels People to provide meals to seniors.
“These are trying times,” Scheldorf said, “and we’re glad that we were able to find a way to help the nonprofits who provide essential services locally.”
The Community Chest itself isn’t immune to the impacts of the coronavirus shutdowns. In March, Richard Reiter, the group’s campaign chair, told the Post-Record the grant-funding organization, which has been helping families in the local community for nearly 75 years, was looking forward to its new partnership with the annual Dinner in White. The benefit, traditionally held in September, was expected to raise money for the Community Chest in 2020, but has been postponed until 2021 due to restrictions on large-group gatherings amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
To learn more about the Community Chest, visit CamasWashougalCommunityChest.org.