When the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill, businesses and organizations were required to rethink their operations. For Legacy Foundation, a year of focusing on its traditional grant cycle for programs and organizations turned into an opportunity to meet the sudden need for funding brought on by the virus’s fast-changing nature.
Since the COVID-19 Grant Relief Program began, 62 organizations have been awarded grants to ensure that they can continue to positively impact their communities, thanks to the partnership between Legacy Foundation and two Lake County foundations.
“We partnered with the Crown Point Community Foundation and the Foundations of East Chicago, and together we raised a little over $1 million dollars for relief efforts,” said Erica Fizer, Director of Marketing and Communications at Legacy Foundation.
The relief grants grew into a multi-phase program, beginning with a collective review of grant applications from hundreds of nonprofits from around the Region.
“Our initial priority was to respond quickly to nonprofits whose populations and client bases were getting hit the hardest,” Fizer said. “In Phase 1 of the program, we distributed around $356,000 in relief grants to nonprofits in immediate need.”
In Phase 1, the bulk of the grants went to nonprofits providing food assistance. City Life Center in Gary was one of the grantees, receiving support for their City Kids Express and COVID Care Kits programs.
“Due to kids being at home during the shelter-in-place order prior to the summer we realized that they would be missing out on hot meals during the day,” said Ken Barry, Executive Director of City Life Center. “City Life Center created a food delivery service by partnering with local restaurants to provide hot meals twice per week to 154 students. We delivered over 3000 meals over a 10-week period of time.”
“But as a result of kids being at home more, food consumption and food related expenses increased in the household. Parents were faced with having to figure out how to cut back on bills in order to purchase additional food,” Barry said. “In response, City Life Center created COVID Care Kits. These kits included items for breakfast, milk, healthy snacks, plastic cutlery, hygiene items, canned goods, PPE and activities for families to do together. There were enough items to last a month and were delivered right to their doors.”
The need for food assistance was vital as students and families were forced to navigate this new normal, a need City Life Center met quickly.
“City Life Center's mission is to help families thrive. One way we accomplish this is by providing concrete support in times of need,” Barry said. “COVID-19 created tremendous needs for families. Our partnership with the Legacy Foundation allowed us to meet these needs in real tangible ways.”
Funding for Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) was also a priority, as the national shortage made access to this life-saving equipment difficult. Technology was given to mental health services to continue connecting with clients on a regular basis and to youth-serving organizations to help students and families navigate E-learning at home when schools shut down.
While the Whiting Public Library was closed for a time to help slow the spread of the virus, it saw an increased demand of their programming as schools began to shut down.
“Since many of our patrons love and rely on our programming, we knew we had to do something while the library was closed during the state mandated stay at home order. Delivering "Creative Crates" was our socially distanced solution to our regular programming that we usually do at the library,” said Joelle Wake, Children’s Librarian at Whiting Public Library. “The crates were based on the model for subscription crates. Each week, parents would fill out a Google form in order to get a free crate delivered to their homes in Whiting or Robertsdale. The crates were for ages 4-9 and contained science activities, arts and crafts, imaginative play, and more.”
“By receiving the Legacy Foundation grant, the library was able to continue the program, expand it into the summer, and offer more crates each week. We were able to provide and deliver 752 crates within thirteen weeks, adding enriching, engaging, safe, and fun activities to our crates,” Wake said. “It helped add some normalcy to the disrupted lives of the children and families in our community. I think now we have a stronger and more positive relationship with our community during an unprecedented time.”
While Legacy Foundation had to suddenly shift the grant cycle’s focus, that flexibility and adaptability has been written into its core model for years.
“Our role is to be responsive to the needs of the community,” Fizer said. “The impact the pandemic has had on the economy and public health really made us shift our focus. Even now, we are re-strategizing to find the best approach to meet the greatest needs.”
Once the grants in Phase 1 were given out, Legacy Foundation listened once again to community needs and turned the key again, this time focusing on more long-term solutions if something like the COVID-19 pandemic were to arise again.
“Once Phase 1 waned, we rethought our strategy and asked, ‘How do we prepare nonprofits for the longer term?’” Fizer said. “’How do we prepare them to be more sustainable?’ They were facing a crisis where they were not able to communicate with clients or losing revenue from not being able to fundraise or hold events.”
Legacy Foundation partnered with IUPUI to help lead the professional development piece of Phase 2. Professional Development scholarships were rewarded to 24 nonprofit leaders in the area to receive training on such things as fundraising and grant writing, skills that would help bring in revenue during a time when there has been a decrease in nonprofit revenue.
They’ve also partnered with the American Red Cross to provide Disaster/Emergency Preparedness Training.
“We wanted to make sure that we were looking at long-term needs and organizations were prepared for future disasters, not just a pandemic, but anything, and that nonprofit leaders had the capacity to continue operationsin all kinds of situations,” Fizer said.
While Phase 2 continues, nonprofits can still apply for a capacity building grant until September 10. Legacy Foundation is prepared to use the money it has raised wisely to meet whatever needs that may pop up during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Things are changing every day,” Fizer said. “We want to be prepared in case any unexpected challenges arise and we need to be out there supporting the community.”
For more information about the COVID-19 Grant Relief Program, please visit Legacy Foundation’s website at https://legacyfdn.org/community-programs/covid-19-relief/.