An emergency fund set up to help Franklin County nonprofits provide unmet needs to residents during the COVID-19 pandemic has released $46,882 in grants to 13 programs.

“This is the work the United Way was built for. We are here to mobilize the community to help our neighbors,” said Amy Hicks, executive director of United Way of Franklin County. “Now, as we face COVID-19 together, many nonprofits are incredibly overburdened serving the growing number of people who need their services. We know response must be strong and immediate, which is why with generous funders, courageous nonprofits, and dedicated community partners, we are ensuring families in Franklin County receive the assistance they need.”

The Community Crisis Response & Recovery Fund was activated by United Way of Franklin County in late March. The fund rallies community to help families across the county who need access to critical resources and services like food, personal protective equipment, shelter, and more.

One of the greatest, most immediate needs arising from this crisis is for food.

According to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank (CPFB), approximately 1 in 10 central Pennsylvanians struggle with hunger in typical times. Now, with businesses closed to prevent spread of COVID-19 and skyrocketing unemployment, more people are struggling with food insecurity. Initial reports from the CPFB show that the need in Franklin County increased 23 percent from February 2020 to March 2020 alone. As of April 27, the CPFB distributed 48 percent more food in April 2020 than they did in April 2019.

The CPFB was granted emergency funds from United Way of Franklin County to pack and distribute 312 food boxes to local agencies, at no cost to the agencies. These boxes will feed 937 food insecure Franklin County residents for half a week.

Local organizations, such as Waynesboro Community & Human Services (WCHS), are also noticing the spike in food insecurity. “We’ve seen the number of families participating in our food programs increase dramatically. Our backpack program has doubled in size, and we’re serving 50 percent more people through our pantry,” said Denise Esser, executive director of WCHS.

To meet the increased need while complying with social distancing and health guidelines, organizations providing food had to adapt quickly and think of creative solutions for distribution, such as moving to online ordering, curbside pick-up, and home delivery.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure no one in our community goes hungry,” said Esser.

Adapting and increasing services in response to the pandemic requires more resources, which is why the Community Crisis Response & Recovery Fund exists. For organizations providing food, like WCHS, receiving the grant means they can feed more people and serve them safely. Funds granted to WCHS will help feed an estimated 635 families through both of their food programs, which covers the approximate increase in need they have seen.

While food is one of the greatest immediate needs, the crisis fund supports a variety of COVID-19 relief efforts. Grants allow purchase of personal protective equipment for staff and clients, or enable crucial therapy sessions to continue through tele-health, or ensure families can remain in their home after loss of income. A list of organizations that received grants, along with a summary of how emergency funds are being used through their program, is available at: www.uwfcpa.org/crisisfund.

These grants would not be possible without contributions from the community. So far, 215 individuals and businesses have contributed to the crisis fund, raising a total of $84,165. Donors are listed on the crisis fund webpage.

“The way our community has come together so quickly to support one another is nothing short of inspiring,” said Hicks. “While the generosity of our donors so far is amazing, we know there are going to be more challenges ahead as we face further

issues that arise from the pandemic. This crisis will impact our community for a long time, and United Way will continue to help our neighbors by supporting critical programs for as long as funds are sustained.”

Community members and businesses who would like to donate to the fund can contribute online at: www.uwfcpa.org/crisisfund, or by mailing a check to United Way of Franklin County, 182 S. Second St., Chambersburg, Pa. 17201.

Those wishing to lend a hand to community in other ways can find a variety of item donation and volunteer needs from local organizations at: www.uwfcpa.org/volunteer.

Grants will continue to be distributed in an immediate and ongoing basis to organizations supporting impacted families in our community, for as long as funds are available and the need exists in the wake of this crisis. Nonprofit organizations serving Franklin County residents may request an application by emailing: office@uwfcpa.org.

United Way’s website is also home to the Franklin County COVID-19 Resources Hub, which includes information and resources about where to get help if you are in need of assistance. Visit the hub at: www.uwfcpa.org/covid19resources.

 

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