Michelle Foster: Philanthropic flexibility in action

Essential reporting in volatile times.

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“Our medication costs have increased 400 percent in the past two weeks. We are spending an average of $10,000 per week versus $10,000 per month right now. Our numbers are skyrocketing with people displaced from their jobs. People are getting their medications out of fear of being on lockdown for months. People are without insulin and blood pressure medications. The costs of all medications are going up and demand is high. Shipments for any free medications we can get are delayed because drug companies are sending nonessential staff home. In addition, we are desperate for masks and cleaning supplies and those costs have skyrocketed too. If we do not get additional support for medications, we are going to have to stop filling them soon. Our budget cannot handle this huge influx. We are here day in and day out doing the work for the most at-risk population in Charleston.”

I received the above cry for help a little over two weeks ago from a high-performing grantee as we were launching our modest COVID-19 Fund. I felt overwhelmed as I came to grips with the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic that threatens the survival of essential nonprofits. Community foundations are striving to respond to the pandemic in thoughtful, creative and flexible ways, but we need your help.

Realizing the need for rapid response to urgent needs, the Board of Trustees of The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation approved a new COVID-19 Fund on March 18, 2020 at their first ever Zoom board meeting. A virtual meeting was held instead of the usual in-person meeting in the crowded board room, as social distancing recommendations were emerging.

Our program officers proactively reached out to basic needs and health grantee partners to determine their needs. The COVID-19 Fund policy authorized a speedy approval process and allocated funding from an anonymous donor to support existing grantees burdened by new demands. Instead of quarterly approvals, COVID-19 Fund grant applications are approved weekly. Below are descriptions of the first batch of approved grants:

n Kanawha Valley Senior Services — feeding seniors during pandemic, $5,100. Kanawha Valley Senior Services has 25 new requests from seniors at risk of COVID-19 and the stay at home order, many of whom cannot have their caregivers come in their homes due to risk of infection. This program provides new seniors and those seniors now at home with two boxes of shelf-stable food. Each box contains five meals and will last through the month of April. This addition will soon deplete current funding. Kanawha Valley Senior Services staff includes cooks, dietary aides, and meal delivery drivers who are essential to the process and will deliver meals to the potentially food insecure seniors.

n West Virginia Health Right, Inc. — medication assistance for impoverished medically at-risk adults, $10,000. The medication assistance project is a direct result of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to providing lifesaving medications to the 29,000 established patients served by WV Health Right, the clinic is now serving furloughed workers who are unable to obtain needed medicine. All six Foundation service counties will be served. Funding will be used to purchase medications to ensure that chronically ill patients continue to have their maintenance medications during this crisis.

n Zion Child Development Center, Inc. — COVID-19 emergency funding to support children in the community, $7,500. Zion Child Development Center is remaining open for business during the COVID-19 crisis. Zion serves as a childcare facility not only for the normal clientele who are considered essential workers but has expanded to serve the children of those who work with Thomas Health System and other children who are not being covered during this crisis. Funding will aid in establishing a call-in system to provide hot food for these children. This will prevent any child from going hungry by giving them good, homecooked, nutritious meals.

n West Virginia Local Health Inc. — protecting the public’s health in Boone, Clay, Fayette, Lincoln and Putnam counties, $50,000. West Virginia is facing a pandemic and local health departments are on the front lines, prepared with the expertise and knowledge to respond and support their counties. However, as this pandemic is rapidly advancing and impacting Boone, Clay, Fayette, Lincoln and Putnam counties in different ways and at different rates, such conditions strain even the most well-resourced agencies. This project will leverage funding to strengthen capacity, infrastructure and public health response to “flatten the curve” and save lives in each of the five counties. Activities include key public health functions of testing, disease investigation, isolation and quarantine, community education and project evaluation.

At the March 18 meeting, the board of trustees also made the decision to cancel the Foundation’s 19th Annual Report to the Community. The Annual Report was originally scheduled for May 19 and would have featured Dr. Clay Marsh, West Virginia’s COVID-19 czar, as the keynote speaker. The trustees and leadership staff felt that reallocating resources towards our community response was more appropriate at this juncture in our history.

As we move forward with our discretionary grantmaking, we are poised towards flexibility. While there will be no change in our health, education and community economic development proactive priorities, we realize the need to be more flexible with our grantees. We understand that they may need more time to deliver the outputs and outcomes described in their grant applications. We realize that they may need budget adjustments or more time to complete reports.

Grantees — we get it. We know that you are under pressure. Thank you for your essential work. These are unusual times. Know that we are here for you. We encourage you maintain open lines of communications with your program officers during this crucial time.

We are thankful to our anonymous donor who made the COVID-19 Fund possible. Nevertheless, we are concerned about the ever-increasing pandemic-related demands from our community, so more funds are needed. The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation stands ready to facilitate the transfer of financial resources from generous donors to nonprofits in need as we recover from the plague of 2020.

Michelle Foster is the president and CEO of The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation in Charleston, West Virginia.

Funerals for Saturday, June 6, 2020

Bibbee, Larry - 1 p.m., Emma Chapel, Liberty.

Christian, Ralph - 2 p.m., Gilman Bottom Freewill Baptist Church, Davin.

Drennen, Betty - 2 p.m., Walker Memorial Park, Summersville.

Gilmore, William - 11 a.m., Cochran Cemetery, New Martinsville.

Jones, Randall - 11:30 a.m., Jedamski Family Cemetery.

Milhoan, Donald - 1 p.m., Roush Funeral Home, Ravenswood.

Moore, Donald - 11:30 a.m., St. Timothy Lutheran Church, South Charleston.

O'Brien, Michael - 1 p.m., John H. Taylor Funeral Home, Spencer.

Painter, Hazel - 1 p.m., Floral Hills Garden of Memories, Sissonville.

Rose, Robert - 2 p.m., Elk Funeral Home, Charleston.

VanMatre, Barbara - 1 p.m., Foglesong-Casto Funeral Home, Mason.