After 26 months providing resources for Otsego County organizations to assist with the immediate and additional challenges of the pandemic, the COVID-19 Response Fund has been spent down and closed. The Fund received $132,000 from 220 generous donors and invested $132,000 back into the community awarding 36 grants.
“The Fund was like a band-aid used to heal the wounds in the early and scariest stages. While the virus hasn’t been eradicated our local organizations have systems in place to clearly navigate and respond to the needs.”Dana Bensinger, OCF Executive Director
“It is easy to see how much the Fund raised and awarded, but beyond the dollar signs is where you find the real healing, the relationships formed, the barriers broken, and the power of community.”
Before the COVID-19 Fund is a distant memory, we want to share some behind the scene details and highlights, celebrating how our community came together to truly make a difference.
At 11:15 am on Friday, March 13, 2020, Erin Mann, Executive Director Otsego County United Way and Dana Bensinger, Executive Director of Otsego Community Foundation met up for an impromptu meeting to discuss how the two organizations could work together to navigate the global pandemic that was suddenly having a local impact. Within an hour eight additional human organizations were gathered around the table discussing how to safely continue providing services to the most vulnerable. With some tweaks it seemed at least in the short term there were solutions, but these changes would need additional resources and finding those resources would be a challenge for the organization especially considering the impact the virus would have on the senior volunteers. Without knowing how, the Community Foundation committed to finding funding.
“I left the United Way and called an emergency meeting with our team. While we had managed plenty of charitable funds, established according to the wish of the donor, we never created without that direction, but with the adrenaline of truly being needed the COVID-19 Response Fund was established by the end of the day, and between social media and word of mouth, donations started and within two weeks grants were awarded,” stated Dana Bensinger.
The fund focused on supporting local organizations that provide services vital to the wellbeing of our community including food, safety, mental and physical health, local economy and unknown future needs. It provided a vehicle for those who wanted response with a convenient place to donate and a quick turnaround of grants to agencies that needed the help. Working closely with nonprofits and other community leaders, the COVID-19 response fund awarded grants for the expected like food and shelter, but also for the unexpected like personal protection equipment and technology that agencies would now need to provide their services.
With the sheltering in place mandate associated with the COVID-19 pandemic extended and many of our local businesses closed it was clear that morale was quickly deteriorating, and creative solutions were a must. Again, in a collaborative effort between the United Way and the Community Foundation, HUGS (Help us give-back to servers) was established to support the employees of locally owned business by providing gift cards to help make ends meet. $24,950 from the COVID-19 Response Fund was used to support HUGS in April and December.
To see a list of all the grants awarded from the COVID-19 Response Fund click here.
Please take a few minutes to hear from grantees how the COVID-19 Response Fund made a difference.
The OCF was touched by the response of donors. With in hours of launching the giving site donations were received. Because of your trust and generosity, the OCF had the resources to truly help the community.
“The generosity of donors and the dedication and innovation of the organizations filled so many gaps and truly helped so many in the darkest days. While I would never wish for a pandemic, it forced us to get out of our comfort zones and rise to a new level. As a result, we have discovered new ways of doing our work and built stronger partnerships. This experience prepares us for what lies ahead.”
Dana Bensinger, OCF Executive Director