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The Community Foundation Blog

Helping those who need it most in the River Counties
By The Community Foundation / April 29, 2020
Helping those who need it most in the River Counties

“We know it will take the entire community coming together to provide the resources necessary to face this challenge head on,” said Margaret Nost, Regional Director of the River Counties Community Foundation (RCCF), an affiliate of the Community Foundation for a greater Richmond that serves Lancaster, Middlesex and Northumberland counties.  And although there haven’t been widespread coronavirus outbreaks in the North Neck region of Virginia, vulnerable populations have been greatly impacted.

In March, RCCF launched the River Counties COVID-19 Response Fund in partnership with the Jessie Ball duPont Fund to support nonprofit partners addressing critical needs in the community, as well as organizations who will be crucial to the ongoing support and long-term recovery of the area. “RCCF has redirected a portion of its competitive grant dollars to the response, and partnerships with other local funders continue to expand as we collaborate to leverage limited resources and maximize our ability to provide prompt, practical help. We have raised over $395,000 to date through these partnerships and our generous donors,” said Lincoln Boykin, Regional Grants Officer.

The Jessie Ball duPont Fund, based in Jacksonville Florida, has been a critical partner in the Response Fund efforts. Its namesake, Jessie Ball, grew up in Northumberland County and later married a member of the Delaware duPont family. After her death in 1970, the foundation was established to continue her philanthropic wishes by funding organizations in the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula that she supported during her life.

Jessie Ball duPont

“Because of their local expertise and networks, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund has looked to strengthen its partnership with RCCF in recent years.  This becomes even more important in a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic by allowing us to partner with other local funders to leverage our community investment and direct dollars where they are needed most,” said Mark Walker, Senior Program Officer with the Jessie Ball duPont Fund.  “The equity implications of a crisis like this are immense. Things are shifting rapidly, and no community appears to be immune, yet every community will experience the crisis differently. We are doing our best to be nimble and responsive and this relationship helps us accomplish that goal.”

So far, $263,000 in emergency grant funding has been distributed to organizations providing access to food, housing, and health care to those most affected by the pandemic. This includes the Middlesex Department of Social Services, Linking Help and Hope, Healthy Harvest Food Bank, Northern Neck-Middlesex and Ledwith-Lewis Free Health Clinics, and The Haven. A complete list of grantees can be found here.

Volunteers prepare to distribute food at the Healthy Harvest Food Bank.

Jeannie Nelson, Executive Director of the Northern Neck-Middlesex Free Health Clinic, says the Clinic has been proactive in securing protective supplies (gowns, gloves, shields, and masks), but it continues to be a challenge. Funds are helping to procure PPE and to allow the clinic to continue to serve low-income, uninsured, and under-insured residents in the community as demand increases. “It has been a struggle to operate without our dedicated volunteers like we normally do. But, our small staff has worked overtime filling 90-day prescriptions, delivering medications to patients in their cars, screening for financial eligibility by phone, meeting patients outside the Clinic for temperature checks and guiding their entrance into the Clinic to be seen by the providers or dentist,” she said. “Each day when our staff leaves the office, we talk about how gracious and grateful the patients are — this is the fuel that keeps us going every day!”

Pharmacists at the Northern Neck-Middlesex Free Health Clinic prepare prescriptions.

Linking Help and Hope, also known as “The Link,” is a partnership of churches and local agencies that connect residents in Lancaster and Northumberland County in need, with vital resources to help them overcome hardships and challenges they might be facing.  Most often, their clients are facing a financial crisis. Tom Coye, founder of “The Link” and newly appointed RCCF board member, shared that, “Typically, we are not hard-pressed during March and April because income tax refunds give needed relief for many family budgets. We are, however, anticipating a steep increase in need from June onward. Many of our clients have been laid off due to COVID-19, and several will probably fall behind in their rent.”  The Response Fund grant will help with emergency financial assistance to seniors and help them remain in their homes and thus avoid the instability of homelessness.

The River Counties COVID-19 Response Fund advisory committee is meeting weekly to assess nonprofit applications and funding priorities and will continue to monitor both immediate and long-term needs of the community during this unprecedented time.  If you have not yet given and would like to join in this effort, you can recommend a grant directly from your RCCF donor-advised fund, make a gift with your credit card by going to the River Counties Community Foundation’s “Give Now” page and enter “River Counties COVID-19 Response Fund” as the grant purpose, or send a check to PO Box 54, White Stone 22578.

“We want to thank all of our partners and our wonderful donors who have helped us respond and mobilize resources so quickly during the beginning of this crisis – your support is so appreciated and our community is much better off because of it.  We are all in this together,” said Nost. 

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