As the novel coronavirus spread across the world and into our communities, the immediate effects were devastating and profound. From the staggering number of lives lost, to the many more lives threatened and disrupted, we were thrust into a period of uncertainty and change that continues to this day.
As a community, we responded in extraordinary ways. Teachers became distance learning experts and IT professionals, parents became classroom aides and in-home guidance counselors, frontline workers became first responders, and we were all challenged to find new ways to work together and support each other while physically apart.
That’s what this report is about: Central New Yorkers responding in unprecedented ways to an unprecedented crisis. Guided by the Council on Foundations’ pledge to “act with fierce urgency to support our nonprofit partners, as well as the people and communities hit hardest by the impacts of COVID-19,” the Community Foundation responded by shifting its grantmaking to prioritize emergency relief efforts in Onondaga, Madison, Oswego and Cayuga counties.
In March and April, we committed initial funding and administrative assistance to create a series of COVID-19 support funds across our service areas, in partnership with local government and regional funders. These new coalitions have resulted in stronger collaborations, streamlined resource deployment and, most importantly, responsive grants to nonprofits working with communities that are disproportionately impacted by economic consequences of the pandemic.
Nonprofits responded in kind, forging new partnerships and adapting programs and services to meet emergent demands. Grants were distributed to address heightened access gaps associated with the digital divide and to support increased need for food, emergency child care, telehealth and mental health services, feminine hygiene products, cleaning supplies, and PPE (personal protective equipment). Many churches emerged as community hubs and received grants to distribute food, supplies and information to hard-to-reach populations.
Community members, too, responded with flexibility and creativity. Individuals, families and collegiate groups volunteered to assist on the front lines; some organized fundraisers, including a virtual lemonade stand and live streamed concerts. Community Foundation donor-advised fundholders made gifts from their funds to the COVID-19 Community Support Fund. Many generously passed along their federal stimulus payments to support these efforts. And still more individuals, families, and corporate and foundation donors thoughtfully gave time and resources to help our neighbors most in need.
The health and economic effects of the pandemic deepened inequities that have long plagued our communities due to systemic racism and poverty. While there are still many unknowns about what the coming days will bring, one thing is clear — we cannot shift back to normal. We must, in service to our vision to create a thriving Central New York with opportunity for everyone, move forward to enact equitable systemic change. As we look ahead toward recovery and rebuilding, we pledge, in the words of the Council on Foundations, to “learn from these emergency practices and share what they teach us about effective partnership and philanthropic support, so we may consider adjusting our practices more fundamentally in the future, in more stable times, based on all we learn.”
Peter A. Dunn
President & CEO
Casey Crabill, Ed.D.
Chair, Board of Directors