When colleges closed in March, the Southern Madison County Ambulance Corps (SOMAC) lost 40-plus Colgate University volunteers. Fewer drivers and emergency medical technicians limited their service as the agency anticipated increased calls from the COVID-19 crisis. Neighboring ambulance and fire departments also requested help as their volunteer ranks thinned.
A grant from the Madison County Rural Poverty Fund supported the agency’s purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) and food for volunteers.
“They were able to expand their service area and increase their staff at a crucial time,” said Robyn Smith, the Community Foundation’s director of strategic initiatives.
In response to the health and economic crises, the Madison County fund and affiliate funds in Pulaski, Oswego and Cayuga counties, as well as the Women’s Fund of Central New York, shifted their grantmaking and worked with funding partners to support agencies addressing immediate needs.
Funders supporting these initiatives were the Richard S. Shineman Foundation, the Fred L. Emerson Foundation, the Elsa Allyn Soderberg Family Fund, the John Ben Snow Memorial Trust, United Way of Cayuga County and United Way of Greater Oswego County.
The Community Foundation’s affiliate and regional funds awarded 45 grants totaling more than $360,000 through July 31.
“What was needed was rapid response grants,” Smith said. “These agencies and funders know their communities and know how best to help.”
Oswego Industries, a Fulton agency that supports adults of all abilities, received a grant to produce cotton masks and gowns for local healthcare providers, including Menter Ambulance and Oswego Health.
Agencies also requested grants to support responses to the challenges of rural communities. For example, public transportation grew more limited, resulting in a grant to Transportation for Cayuga County to support trips to medical appointments and grocery shopping.
Cayuga Community Health Network and Cornell Cooperative Extension received grants to provide wellness kits and Spanish/English COVID-19 prevention information to farmworkers.
Agencies that provided on-site services or meals shifted to in-person or remote delivery as many people — especially the elderly — were fearful of leaving home. Grants supported technology for agencies to work remotely or change procedures to keep staff and clients safe.
Uncertainty and change made some people vulnerable to risky behavior or abuse. Telehealth and video check-ins were crucial for people experiencing mental illness, domestic or family abuse or substance abuse.
Liberty Resources in Madison County, Oneida Healthcare and Arc of Oswego County received grants for technology to provide contactless telehealth services to clients.
Several agencies, including Fulton Family YMCA and Oswego YMCA, received grants to provide child care for essential workers.
One child care provider emerged from an unexpected source. Cazenovia’s The Haven at Skanda, which connects rescued animals with children who have emotional and behavioral issues, received funding to support a shift to meet the increased need for emergency child care.