United Way of Lebanon County recently awarded $13,000 to nonprofit organizations that are helping the community in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This money was awarded in three separate grants to address food security for students and the larger community, housing for domestic violence survivors, and emergency housing for homeless families.
The first of these grants gave $5,000 to Lebanon County Christian Ministries (LCCM), which partnered with the Eastern Lebanon County (ELCO) School District to feed students in need. Since the district did not initially receive reimbursement for the meals they served from the federal food program, LCCM helped them source food to supplement what the district had to offer.
“We are all working toward the same goal of making sure that no local children are going hungry during this time,” said United Way of Lebanon County CEO Brooke Smith.
This grant also helps support LCCM’s free noon meal program, which has seen increased attendance since before the pandemic. Previously, there were 130 attendees on average, but since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the attendance is sometimes over 200.
Another grant of $3,000 will provide support for Domestic Violence Intervention of Lebanon County (DVI) during the pandemic so that the organization can continue to provide shelter for domestic violence survivors and their children while also ensuring their health and safety.
Typically, DVI houses survivors in their shelter, but due to social distancing guidelines, that is no longer a viable option. Instead, they are housing them in hotel rooms, which increases the expense.
The final grant awarded $5,000 to family shelter FRESH Start to help them house families during the pandemic. Similar to DVI, FRESH Start usually houses its guests in shelters and churches but is no longer able to do so because of the pandemic. United Way grant aims to address this newfound need.
“Based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the group first and foremost wanted to make sure people had their basic needs met,” said Smith.
The money for these grants came from the Lebanon County Community Support Fund, which United Way recently established to mitigate the short- and long-term needs of Lebanon County residents during the pandemic.
Decisions about the distribution of these funds are made by the COVID-19 Community Support Fund Committee, which is composed of United Way board members and various members of the community. In addition to making decisions about funding, the committee also monitors areas of need related to COVID-19 in the Lebanon County community.
“Initially, we saw a large need for the basics — food and housing,” said committee co-chair René Numer, who is Director of Human Resources at APR Supply Company, in a release. “With the recent awarding of state and federal programs available to support these areas, we want to be flexible and responsive to other COVID-related needs as they arise.”
United Way’s Coronavirus Community Support Fund has raised over $36k of its $50k goal as of Friday, May 15. The money raised for this fund will only be provided to United Way funded partners.
“We do a thorough vetting of our funded partners and know they are in financial good standing with sound practices to be good stewards of philanthropic dollars,” said Smith.
In addition to these grants, United Way is helping Lebanon County navigate the pandemic by communicating regularly with local nonprofits, participating in the Lebanon Valley Economic Development Corporation’s economic recovery plan, supporting United Way funded partners as they adapt their services, raising awareness of various causes, and mobilizing volunteers.
United Way is also providing a 24/7 social service hotline, where community members can dial 211 or text their ZIP code to 898211 to learn about local resources that are available. Those who want to support United Way’s efforts are encouraged to learn more about their work, make a contribution to the COVID-19 Community Support Fund, or volunteer their time.
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