In the midst of a historic public health crisis, Northeast Florida donors have pledged more than $2 million to Florida’s First Coast Relief Fund to support immediate needs caused by COVID-19 disruption.
To help those most affected by COVID-19 disruption, The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, Jessie Ball duPont Fund, Jewish Federation and Foundation of Northeast Florida, United Way of Northeast Florida and United Way of St. Johns County re-activated Florida's First Coast Relief Fund.
"I don't know where to turn now that my hours have been reduced to nothing,” said a local mother of four children who was seeking help from a Relief Fund grantee. “I don't know how we are going to make it."
For so many families who are now facing unemployment, reduced hours at work, lost wages and tips, mounting bills to pay and scarcity of everyday resources, the Relief Fund is serving as a critical safety net. Families who were already at the tipping point before the pandemic are now living in survival mode. The assistance they receive through the Relief Fund helps them stay housed and buy food.
Twelve nonprofits in Duval, St. Johns and Nassau counties already received a total of $405,000 to provide relief and resources to families throughout the region and the agencies that serve them. The first round of grants focused on immediate needs of shelters and those providing emergency food and financial assistance.
The recipients include: Barnabas Center, BEAM (Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry), Catholic Charities (Jacksonville), Catholic Charities (St. Augustine), City Rescue Mission, Clara White Mission, ElderSource, Feeding Northeast Florida, Jewish Family & Community Services, St. Francis House, Sulzbacher and Trinity Rescue Mission.
“Trinity Rescue Mission has seen donations and other revenue streams to be very vulnerable right now,” said Gary Judd, the Jacksonville shelter’s executive director. “The coronavirus has put an incredible stress on the homeless community and on those who help to serve them. We have seen increased direct expenses, including staffing, transportation, food cost and supplies. Florida’s First Coast Relief Fund has allowed us to continue to operate and those who are most vulnerable in the city to be cared for during times of uncertainty.”
With support from the Relief Fund, Trinity Rescue Mission has been able to increase its services, including isolating its most vulnerable population at a separate location; take extra recommended steps to help the homeless, including social distancing and hygiene; and actively collaborated with other providers across the city to meet overall community needs.
“This is exactly what Florida’s First Coast Relief Fund is designed to do – it ensures Northeast Florida nonprofits can continue their critically important work helping our most vulnerable populations in this time of increased need,” said Mari Kuraishi, president of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund. “We’re grateful for the support of so many individuals, businesses and foundations who are helping shore up the resources available to those in our community who need them most.”
The Fund was able to deploy these much-needed grants due to the generous and immediate support from local foundations, corporations and individual donors. The Jessie Ball duPont Fund trustees pledged $500,000 to support the Relief Fund, the largest single gift to date for COVID-19 relief.
Major funders who have committed to the Relief Fund for COVID-19 thus far include:
■ Jessie Ball duPont Fund: $500,000
■ Shad Khan of the Jacksonville Jaguars: $400,000
■ Jim Moran Foundation: $250,000
■ Weaver Family Foundation Fund: $250,000
■ Lucy Gooding Charitable Trust: $150,000
■ The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida: $100,000
■ GuideWell/Florida Blue: $100,000
■ Riverside Hospital Foundation: $50,000
■ Zimmerman Family Foundation: $50,000
■ Wells Fargo: $40,000
■ DuBow Family Foundation: $25,000
■ Robert and Margaret Hill: $25,000
■ Jewish Federation and Foundation of Northeast Florida: $25,000
■ VyStar Credit Union: $25,000
■ Anonymous: $25,000
More than 50 additional donors have made generous gifts totaling $44,000.
“We live in an incredibly generous community, and in times of crisis like these, it truly shines,” said Nina Waters, president of The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida. “Because of our community’s generosity, the nonprofit sector is bolstered and individuals will get the help they need. Florida’s First Coast Relief Fund partners are deeply grateful for the dollars raised thus far, and we urge others to step up to join us in this important effort.”
The needs are growing, and the calls for help are increasing. Nonprofit organizations can now apply for funding from the Relief Fund, and applications are being accepted online. Organizations can apply for help in the following categories:
■ Food assistance, non-food items and supplies for agency and low-income individuals and families who are food insecure due to job losses, school closings, etc.
■ Short-term housing assistance to support shelters to safely distance residents and prevent the spread of COVID-19
■ Financial assistance for individuals and families impacted by the crisis to help meet their basic household needs
■ Child-care support for first responders and other frontline staff working to prevent the spread of the virus
■ Medical, safety supplies and equipment for community-based service providers as they carry out essential community services
■ Technology support for nonprofits to enable remote work and continued delivery of services
As with past relief efforts, the Relief Fund will be overseen by a grants committee and administered by United Way of Northeast Florida with 100 percent of donations going to nonprofit agencies.
"I want to say thank you to every group or individual who is personally stepping up for the people of Jacksonville during these uncertain times," said Shad Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, in a press release Tuesday. "It's my privilege to help.”
United Way’s 211 call center, which provides information and referral services to more than 100,000 callers annually, has already seen a 20% increase in calls during COVID-19 disruption. For example, a 66-year-old Ability Housing resident and cancer patient who uses public transportation called 211 to find alternative transportation to his UF Health treatments because of his immune system vulnerability. United Way 211 connected that individual to a solution.
"In spite of stories of anxiety and uncertainty, we are also hearing so many stories of hope,” said Michelle Braun, president and CEO of United Way of Northeast Florida, which is administering the Relief Fund for the partnership. “This truly is what it’s all about – coming together to help those who are struggling. We are honored to be among those making a difference during this difficult time and all year long.”
Again, 100% of Florida's First Coast Relief Fund dollars will benefit local COVID-19 relief efforts. They will be granted to organizations providing direct services to individuals impacted by COVID-19 in Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns counties. The fund will provide resources to meet needs not met by government programs.
Florida’s First Coast Relief Fund will remain open until needs stabilize and while funding is available. Applications are now open for nonprofits to apply for funding. To learn more, give or apply, visit unitedwaynefl.org/COVID19response.