Recovery Fund: Helping provide basic needs

Volunteers at St. Andrew’s Community Resource Center provide food curbside to families in need 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Thursday.  

WHITE BEAR LAKE — As revenue streams dissipate for area nonprofits due to COVID-19, the five-year-old community foundation is chipping in to help. 

In just four weeks, the Greater White Bear Lake Community Foundation (GWBLAF) has raised $85,000 from nearly 40 donors for the Community Recovery Fund. The goal is $100,000. 

Every week, the grants committee meets to review applications and give away money. The funds help groups meet basic needs like food, shelter and human services as the organizations struggle to recover from the pandemic’s economic fallout. 

Recipients include Solid Ground, which just received $5,000 for rent subsidies and cleaning supplies; Northeast Youth and Family Services, which received $5,000 to make assurance calls to isolated seniors; and St. Andrew’s Community Resource Center and the YMCA.

Food is an issue the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities is tackling. Thanks in part to $5,000 from the foundation, staff is providing 2,200 meals per week at the White Bear Area Y. That program was supposed to conclude June 5, but Shane Hoefer, vice president of operations, said they’re trying “some Hail Marys” to see what might happen. “Food is going to be part of the Y program,” he said, “we just aren’t sure in what form.” 

The day the program was set to end, Hofer said the Hail Mary’s worked. “Not only did Donatelli’s step up to continue (and even increase what they’d been doing) but United Health Group/Loaves and Fishes at the last minute Friday afternoon announced they’ll continue – so the program will operate at least for another week and I think likely longer.”

Minnesota has a reported 9,000 nonprofits that employ 385,000 workers, or 13% of the state’s workforce. According to the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, $1 billion was lost in April due to closures and cancellations of fundraising events. 

“Nonprofits are a big part of our economy,” noted David Swanson, GWBLAF executive director. “A recent survey showed 88% reported significant disruption to income and an inability to pay bills. Some (nonprofits) may not survive the (COVID-19) crisis.” 

These organizations are serving people that have never needed them before, added GWBLAF consultant Jackie Reis. At least that’s what foundation board members are learning from weekly teleconferences with local organizations to hear what they’re facing. 

“The food need has at least doubled at the White Bear food shelf,” Reis said. “The need for rental assistance has quadrupled. Grants couldn’t be made without the generosity of this community.”

The St. Andrew’s resource center was one of the first to get funds from the foundation. A $5,000 grant to the church-based group is earmarked for cash outlays and caseworker time to help families avoid homelessness. 

Solid Ground, too, helps people on the brink of homelessness. 

Their clientele are people who have lived in generational poverty. Most are people of color; most are single mothers and 40% of the children at Solid Ground are age 5 and younger, said Trisha Cummins-Kauffman, executive director. “Kids who are school age are often behind a grade because of trauma they’ve experienced,” she asserted. “Many of our parents, and most are women, have experienced domestic violence.” 

About a third of Solid Ground’s money comes from Minnesota foundations, Cummins-Kauffman added. The community has been “incredibly generous,” and grants have been stable, but she worries that the impact will be felt more next year. “As assets decrease, it could become a perfect storm,” she said.

Northeast Youth and Family Services is experiencing a 50% reduction in revenue. 

Executive Director Tara Jebens-Singh, who succeeded now-retired Jerry Hromatka, said their fee-based services had to be drastically altered because of COVID-19. 

“Many of us still need to provide essential services while sources of revenues are limited. COVID-19 relief is greatly needed and appreciated,” she said.   

The popular senior chore program, for example, was altered to protect both volunteers and seniors. In-home services were stopped and outdoor services such as yard work has been limited. 

“We started calling seniors on our client list to make sure they had resources they needed,” Jebens-Singh said. “We are calling it Senior Connections. Staff makes telephone reassurance calls to reduce isolation and direct seniors to needed services.”

Virtual mental health sessions using platforms like Zoom are also available. Called Telehealth, clients are connected to therapists and school counselors. “We know kids are feeling anxiety and depression,” Jebens-Singh said. Also new are walk-in talks at local parks for youth needing a face-to-face conversation. 

“We feel it’s our obligation to be here in whatever capacity to buoy the community through the pandemic,” Jebens-Singh stated. 

The organization has felt the sting of dropping revenue without furloughing staff. They received a Paycheck Protection Program loan, which helped. “Our revenue was cut in half,” said the executive director. “We’re looking at challenging times, so we’re grateful to get these kinds of (GWBLAF) funds.” 

To date, the foundation has also provided grants to the Salvation Army for food and emergency assistance, Newtrax to offset transportation costs to deliver meals to YMCA branches, and Canvas Health, to support telehealth services for homebound White Bear students in school district 916.

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