Two nonprofits are partnering to bolster the bottom line of the Community Emergency Relief Fund so it is primed to respond to the needs of residents as job losses and displacements from the COVID-19 virus expand.
To seed the fund, the Community Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado and United Way of Southwest Colorado are each contributing $25,000 to CERF, which was created in 2008 to help people displaced by the Season’s restaurant fire.
The fund has been used to help people impacted by disasters since 2008, including the Gold King Mine spill in 2015, the Adobe Building Fire in Pagosa Springs in 2016 and the 416 Fire in 2018.
“Our priorities for helping people are those dealing with hunger; we want to ensure everyone has food, and rent and utilities, we want to keep everyone housed,” said Briggen Wrinkle, executive director of the Community Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado. “Beyond that, we want to help with the growing number of vulnerable people as more lose their jobs.”
On top of the $50,000 seed money put in CERF by the Community Foundation and United Way, Wrinkle said $35,000 has been raised, mostly from individuals, since March 16 from people and businesses looking to help people struggling economically, medically or emotionally since the outbreak of COVID-19.
“We want to address mental health issues as well,” Wrinkle said. “Isolation can be really hard on people’s mental health, they struggle with anxiety, depression and stress.”
CERF has already provided $5,000 to fund Save the Food, Feed the People, an effort organized by In the Weeds, a local restaurant workers support group, The Good Food Collective, local restaurants and the Community Foundation to cook excess restaurant food and prepare meals for people who are food-insecure.
“We’re looking for impactful distribution of funds so we can put people in a better position,” Wrinkle said. “We’re looking at opportunities where we can use our resources to bridge funding gaps.”
Wrinkle said nonprofit groups are talking to each other to prevent duplicating services.
“We want to know for example, if a food bank gets a big donation, then maybe we can use our dollars to help more with rent assistance,” she said.
To donate to the Community Emergency Relief Fund, visit www.coloradogives.org/cerf or send a check payable to the Community Foundation with CERF in the memo line to P.O. Box 1673, Durango, CO 81302. Also, anyone who wants to donate can text “credit” to 40403 to pay with their smartphone.
Grants will be distributed to nonprofit organizations throughout Southwest Colorado through the course of the COVID-19 crisis. The goal is to move resources quickly and adapt to evolving needs. The CERF grant committee expects to disburse an initial round of grants by March 31.
A committee of community stakeholders reflecting the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak – public health officials, school districts, businesses, local governments and nonprofits – will help to decide how the funds are disbursed. The community panel will prioritize available funds to meet immediate needs in the region, including public health needs and economic impacts.
The Community Foundation and United Way are both 501(c)(3) public charities, and donations to both groups are tax deductible.