Over $513K awarded to 23 organizations in 2 weeks by the Community Foundation.

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Photo courtesy of the East Lake Initiative

Before the COVID-19 crisis, the East Lake Initiative, in collaboration with partner organizations Thrive Together and Serving You served 800 emergency food bags to low-income individuals and families. Since the  impact of the pandemic hit a little less than a month ago, the need to feed the community has tripled.

They now provide 2500 emergency food bags to Birmingham residents.

A Lifeline

Photo courtesy of the East Lake Initiative

These meals are a lifeline for our most vulnerable neighbors. 

According to the East Lake Initiative, they are serving the sick and elderly who must self-quarantine to survive as well as low-income families with no health insurance, who can’t afford to get sick and now, due to growing job losses, desperately need food. 

To meet this need, the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham awarded the East Lake Initiative $15,000, one of its first Rapid Response Grants for immediate, basic needs related to the COVID-19 crisis.  

$513,500 Provided in Two Weeks

As reported by Bham Now earlier this month, the Community Foundation committed $1 million of its competitive grantmaking funds toward COVID-19 relief. An additional $500,000 has been raised via the Foundation’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund and other funds.

In just the first two weeks of April, the Foundation has already gone through two rounds of grantmaking, appropriating $513,500 to 23 local grantees. 

How the Funding was Decided

It has been a whirlwind month for the Community Foundation. When the COVID-19 crisis began, they immediately sent out a survey to community nonprofit partners to get an idea how to respond to this historic health and economic disruption. The Foundation received over 250 responses.  

“We were trying to understand how COVID-19 was impacting the communities and the organizations that serve them,” said Gus Heard-Hughes, Vice President of Programs for the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham. “We wanted to make sure our grantmaking structure was informed by community data.”  

As a result the Foundation set up two kinds of grants:

  • Rapid Response Grants for immediate, basic needs related to the COVID-19 crisis. Grants are awarded up to $25,000.
  • Nonprofit Adaptation Grants for organizational adaptations to avoid or mitigate disruption of services. Grants are awarded up to $5,000.

“The survey told us we should focus on immediate, critical needs,” added Heard-Hughes.  “We need to address things like food, housing, utilities, physical and mental health care, childcare for essential workers. We should focus on groups that are disproportionately impacted by the crisis, such as displaced workers, low-income families, communities of color, people with health challenges, people with disabilities, people who are homeless. It also showed us that nonprofit organizations are really struggling around loss of funding and operational adaptation.  Everyone is having to shift, to change the way they operate, as a result of this crisis.”

In addition to the Rapid Response and Nonprofit Adaptation grants, Community Foundation has tapped the Catalyst Funds, a special pool of funds that are designated for transformational projects in the region. 

Birmingham, Alabama Skyline
Birmingham, Alabama skyline. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Here is a breakdown of the first 23 grantees:

Rapid Response Grants

  • Alabama Kidney Foundation – for transportation to dialysis for high medical needs patients ($5,000) 
  • East Lake Initiative – for food, rent assistance, utility assistance for impacted families ($15,000) 
  • Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (HICA) – to support an emergency fund for basic needs and provide technology adaptations to facilitate service provision ($25,000)
Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now
  • Levite Jewish Community Center – Child care for essential workers with children ages 0-5 ($10,000)
  • Impact Family Counseling –  to support mental health services to children and families and provide remote access to clients ($20,000) 
  • The Ministry at Green Springs – Provide delivery and drive through food distribution to clients ($10,000) 
  • St. Vincent’s Foundation – Emergency assistance for associates of St. Vincent’s; matched by SVHS up to $1K ($25,000)
Signs in front of St. Vincent’s Hospital. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now
  • The Salvation Army of Greater Birmingham – Food and emergency utility assistance for up to 600 families ($25,000)
  • The Salvation Army of Walker County – Food and emergency assistance for low income families in Walker and Blount Co., with a focus on seniors
  • The Society of St. Andrew – To address supply chain gaps, provide 80,000 pounds of supplier-donated food to area food banks and pantries ($20,000)
  • Holy Family Cristo Rey – Emergency assistance for HFC student and alumni families in financial need ($15,000)
Kirk Mitchell and all the Holy Family Cristo students. Photo by Vulcan Materials Company
  • Hoover Helps – Food for over 500 food insecure children and their families in the Hoover area ($10,000)
  • Manna Ministries – Food for food insecure families impacted by the crisis ($14,000)
  • Three Hots and a Cot – Basic emergency assistance needs of homeless veterans ($8,000)
  • YMCA – To provide childcare for children of frontline workers in grades kindergarten through eighth ($50,000)  Special Grant
  • To support the Birmingham Business Resource Center and provide navigation support exclusively to nonprofits who are applying for funding through the Payroll Protection Program of the CARES Act ($10,000) Special Grant

Nonprofit Adaptation Grants

  • Chocolate Milk Mommies – Technology to provide remote maternal and child health services to clients ($5,000)
  • Red Mountain Park Fund – Technology upgrades to facilitate remote work. The park is seeing higher usage during crisis ($5,000)
Red Mountain Park
T.C. McLemore (center) and Mayor Randall Woodfin. Photo courtesy of Red Mountain Park
  • YWCA Central Alabama – Add COVID-19 Coordinator to meet increased demand, especially domestic violence services ($5,000)
  • The Jimmie Hale Mission-Jessie’s Place – Address digital divide for clients – computer access for homeless children ($5,000)
  • Safehouse for Shelby County – to facilitate remote work and support and safety and health measures within domestic violence shelter ($5,000) 
  • Space One Eleven – to provide technology assistance to move art classes for low-income children to online access ($5,000)

Catalyst Grants

  • The Women’s Fund of Birmingham for a challenge grant to their Rapid Operating and Relief for Women Fund (ROAR) to to help at-risk child care centers serving essential workers in the region ($100,000) 
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham for COVID-19 Vaccine and treatment research ($50,000)

In for the Long Haul

The Community Foundation is in this for the long haul. They are planning to make COVID-19 grants weekly until late May, then they intend to “check back” with the community to re-assess needs. 

They also are working closely with the Jefferson County Department of Health and community funders such as the United Way of Central Alabama.

Heard-Hughes concluded, “We understand that disasters like this are unpredictable. You have to do consistent checks back with the community and keep on top of the information out there to fund the crisis as it evolves. We are very prepared for a long term situation.”

Donate Today

If you are able to, please give to the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham’s COVID-19 Response Fund. As you can see, the funds will be spent wisely, efficiently and quickly. Donate HERE.

Now more than ever, our community needs YOU.

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  • Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.