In little more than a month, nearly everything has changed.
Our community remains shuttered under stay-at-home orders to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. Our kids are still home from school, and many of us are home too. We are all facing an uncertain future, but while we all share common struggles related to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re not all in the same boat.
Nearly 49,000 Lancaster County residents have lost jobs and filed for unemployment benefits since March. People across this community are losing sleep over how they will pay their rent, put food on the table and weather this storm, which changed so much so quickly.
But some things remain constant, and one of those things is the extraordinary generosity of Lancaster County residents. In response to challenges brought on by the pandemic, Lancaster County Community Foundation, in partnership with the United Way of Lancaster County, launched the Lancaster Cares COVID 19 Response Fund (LancoCares.org).
In less than five weeks, more than 600 county residents have given nearly $900,000 to support food distribution, housing, sheltering services and rapid-response funds for emerging needs.
A number of our most generous funding partners, as well as trusted community partners, have joined this effort. Rodgers & Associates, Truist Cares Fund, High Foundation, PPL Corp., Altria Group Inc., Arconic Foundation, Armstrong Flooring Community Fund and many more have made major contributions to Lancaster Cares.
Equally important are the hundreds of contributions from concerned citizens who want to be sure that others have what they need. And then there are the fundraising champions who have set up crowdfunding pages to get out the word in their networks.
Thank you all; we are humbled by your generosity.
Lancaster Cares is designed to work through some of the most impactful nonprofit safety net providers in our community. Its expertise will help convert the dollars donated into direct services, support and supplies for families impacted by the coronavirus crisis. The fund has already distributed $260,000: $80,000 to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank to enhance food security, and $80,000 to LanCo My Home for housing and shelter support. An additional $100,000 is being deployed as rapid-response dollars to meet emerging needs.
Every dollar raised will go directly to support families throughout Lancaster County.
Joe Arthur, executive director of the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, which works with 38 food distribution centers throughout the county, said the “Lancaster Cares Fund has proven to be a remarkable lever in our crisis response in Lancaster County. The initial funding has helped us ensure that thousands of Lancaster County families have enough healthy food.”
Equally important, Arthur noted, is that the leadership and structure of the fund have “leveraged the collaborative strength of our Lancaster County food security network,” and provides a coordinated response to the many needs across our community.
LanCo My Home, meanwhile, is answering needs for safe shelter. “We’re extending our shelter capacity throughout the county and city and we’ve created a day shelter that allows individuals living outside to spend the day in a supported environment and get connected to services,” said Jennifer Koppel, director of the Lancaster County Homelessness Coalition. “Without the Lancaster Cares Fund, we would have had no ability to extend shelter capacity beyond April 30, and we would not have been able to open the day shelter at all.”
Our partners at the United Way are leading our effort to provide rapid- response funds for emerging needs. These needs are vast and the challenge is immense. In the first two weeks of what will be a rolling weekly application process, 42 organizations applied for funding. While we won’t be able to fund all applicants, we are committed to supporting as many as we can throughout this crisis.
As of Thursday, Lancaster Cares rapid-response dollars have supported 32 organizations by distributing $81,000. Among the efforts these dollars will support are COVID-19 information outreach to the Plain sect community from the Clinic For Special Children; free distribution of brown bag meals in Lancaster city by the Moravian Center of Lancaster; and Project Telemedicine at Lancaster Health Center to improve patient understanding and help keep patients out of emergency rooms.
We’re facing new and unpredictable challenges, and the solutions must change with them. Fortunately, this county’s roll-up-your-sleeves, get-the-job-done attitude will pull us through, as it has before. And this community’s generosity continues to shine through these dark times. It is lifting up fellow county residents, keeping food on their tables and a roof over their heads, and maybe most importantly, offering hope in this crisis. This hope will strengthen the entire community as we await the better days that are surely coming.
I’m humbled and honored to be part of this community. I’m proud of what we are doing to support our neighbors today and excited to see what we will do tomorrow. Together we are building our community’s shared future.
Samuel J. Bressi is president and CEO of Lancaster County Community Foundation.