United Way, Community Foundation launch ‘COVID-19 Response Fund’ to support struggling nonprofits

Image via the United Way of the Lakeshore

The United Way of the Lakeshore and the Community Foundation for Muskegon County have a message for nonprofits and residents who are struggling as a spreading coronavirus forces businesses to shutter and residents to remain in their homes: We are here to help.

The two organizations have teamed up to create a “COVID-19 Response Fund,” which will provide support for nonprofit organizations throughout Muskegon County as they deal with the fallout from the coronavirus. 

“This is really going to test our nonprofit system locally and nationwide; we want to begin to create a pool of funds so we don’t lose our whole nonprofit sector,” United Way President and CEO Christine Robere said. “Funds like these will be critical to sustain the programs we believe are important to the fabric of our community.”

The Community Foundation for Muskegon County and United Way each provided about $30,000 in seed money to launch the fund, and other funding has come from the Meijer Foundation and the Consumers Energy Foundation.

“These funds will be available to meet immediate needs in the community as we prepare to address all the implications of the coronavirus,” Community Foundation for Muskegon County President and CEO Todd Jacobs said in a press release.

Any nonprofit organization that has been affected by coronavirus, or is working with populations affected by the coronavirus, are welcome to apply for funding through United Way. United Way will post the application for funding on its website, and those who would like to donate to the fund can do so by clicking here.

While there’s no set limit as to how much an organization can apply for through the fund, Robere is encouraging groups to apply for “smaller amounts, like $5,000,” and then apply again as needs continue. Agencies will be able to request up to two weeks of funding for services and operations

United Way will likely review the applications on a weekly or bi-monthly basis in order to address the quickly changing challenges faced in Muskegon, such as providing support for individuals who need to access food or gas cards after losing jobs. There’s no set amount the organizations hope to raise for the fund; they will continue to generate money for it until there is no longer a need for the emergency support.

“At this point, we’re going to keep that number growing,” Robere said of the amount of money in the fund. “I think the critical thing is we don’t know how long this is going to go onif it’s a month, the need will be less than if it’s four months. The reality is it’s going to hit different groups in different ways.”

In addition to the coronavirus fund, United Way is providing information to the public about volunteer opportunities and other ways to support neighbors in this time of need. To see what organizations need volunteers, please click here, and to learn about donating to food pantries, please click here.

“We certainly have a need for volunteers to assist with food pantries and their needs,” Robere said. “And we need drivers to assist to get delivered meals out. Those are the two emerging volunteer needs.”

And while there are certainly growing needs in the community, there is also a chorus of voices throughout the area saying they want to help, Robere emphasized.

“We’ve had a lot of calls for volunteerism from people wanting to help,” Robere said. “It’s the true nature of our community that people will reach out. It’s the American way, but in Muskegon it’s even stronger.” 

To make a gift to the fund, visit unitedwaylakeshore.org/coronavirushelp and click on the COVID19 response button. Mail in gifts to United Way of the Lakeshore, PO BOX 207, Muskegon, 49443-0207.

Story by Anna Gustafson, the publisher and editor of Muskegon Times. You can connect with her by emailing muskegontimes@gmail.com or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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