Opinion: The Well-Being Of Our Communities Depends On Our Collective Action And Support

Photo by Nicholas Bartos for Unsplash

By Anne Caroline Valtin

Have you ever wondered who individuals turn to for support and assistance during challenging times?

Family and friends typically come to mind first. But with everyone affected one way or the other by the COVID-19 virus, we are faced with unemployment figures that bring us to uncharted territory, meaning these allies may not be in a position to help. Government stimulus packages and unemployment benefits associated with these unprecedented circumstances will help those most affected; but what about the “gap” between the moment they are in need and the actual receipt of this support? And how far will these resources go over the next few months?

This shines a new light on vulnerability. While many of us think of this term as something that is “internal” (doubts, self-consciousness, fear of failure, letting go of control, etc.), the coronavirus is redefining this term at lightning speed. In the last couple of weeks, being vulnerable has meant losing all income while having to provide for a family due to full industry shut downs, watching your investments in a new business disappear as it was forced to shut its doors, being obligated to stay home to watch your children as all schools closed, being part of an industry that is non-essential, etc.

So, who is left standing to take care of us when we are at our most vulnerable? With a growing list of layoffs and challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the nonprofit sector is depending on us to collectively address the challenges to come.

Commonly referred as the backbone of our communities, charities are not only having to quickly adapt their work conditions, they are also faced with two contradictory circumstances.

On the one hand, they are experiencing an increased demand for their services and programs while simultaneously experiencing a decrease in support due the cancellation of fundraising events, postponed funding opportunities and an overall decrease in giving due to economic uncertainty.

According to the National Council of Non-Profits, “America’s 1.3 million charitable nonprofits feed, heal, shelter, educate, inspire, enlighten, and nurture people of every age, gender, race, and socioeconomic status, from coast to coast, border to border, and beyond.”

For specific sectors such as food banks, they have already noted a 75 percent decrease in donations from major partners and retailers due to the surge in demand from the public, as well as a decrease in volunteers. However, the demand for their products has exponentially increased.

For agencies serving children in the foster care system, the long-term impact of these lack of economic support will impact their capacity to serve constituents in the weeks, months and perhaps years to come unless we collectively step up to fill the void of government resources.

While financial support is crucial for many organizations, cross-sector partnerships also play a big role in this community approach. With many businesses locally, nationally and internationally stepping up to the plate, inspiration on how we can work together is everywhere. A local example was recently highlighted by Howley’s Restaurant, becoming a major food partner for charities and those who had lost their jobs due to the coronavirus. Big brand names such as Ford Motor Company, Airbnb, Ralph Lauren, to name a few, are also working to address different needs following this unprecedented time of need.

As we navigate through these challenging times ourselves, it may seem hard to “think beyond today,” the “here and now”. However, coming together (while maintaining CDC guidelines) with your children, peers and community to ensure that we all collectively not only survive, but thrive, beyond the COVID-19 is essential.

We invite you to join in this community-wide effort by either reaching out to an organization you already support or taking the time to discover the crucial work that so many charities take part in. Whether you can support their work financially, volunteer to upkeep their outreach efforts or act as a voice for their mission. As Margaret Mead said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Submitted by Anne Caroline Valtin, executive director of the Great Charity Challenge presented by Fidelity Investments (GCC) in Wellington. For a list of nonprofits seeking emergency support, we invite you to visit www.greatcharitychallenge.com to view Palm Beach County’s Emergency Giving Guide.


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