In the two years since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in coastal South Carolina, Coastal Community Foundation has raised and awarded more than $2.5 million in relief funds to regional nonprofit organizations that have supported coastal communities through periods of virtual schooling, historic rates of unemployment, spikes in housing and food insecurity, and many other pandemic-related challenges.
Grants were awarded to 137 nonprofit organizations and causes serving the nine-county coastal region, made possible by 685 donations to the Covid-19 Relief & Recovery Fund since it was established in March 2020. Grant applications were accepted and awarded on a rolling basis, with volunteer community members serving on the grantmaking committee to help determine evolving needs of each county and where funds would be most impactful.
The economic recession brought on by the pandemic in 2020 led to the highest rate of unemployment in nearly 50 years, putting demand for direct services such as food and housing support at an all-time high.
The Lowcountry Food Bank, for instance, reported a 200 percent increase in need for food assistance. CCF’s Covid-19 fund grants totaling $135,000 over the past two years helped the nonprofit feed about 6,500 people across the region. About $870,000 overall was awarded to local nonprofits focusing on food distribution.
“Coastal Community Foundation’s funding helped us distribute food directly in the communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic to our neighbors who needed it the most,” said Brenda Shaw, Chief Development Officer of Lowcountry Food Bank. “Since about 50 percent of the neighbors we have served during the Covid-19 pandemic have sought food assistance for the first time, our ability to meet the ever-growing demand for food during this challenging time has been made possible through the commitment of our partners like CCF, as well as our donors, volunteers, and staff.”
Other grantees accessed funding to adapt their services to meet new needs amid the pandemic. For example, after schools moved to virtual learning, a $15,000 grant awarded to the Beaufort-Jasper YMCA of the Lowcountry helped provide learning coaches to 83 students in virtual school whose parents or guardians could not stay home to support them during the school day.
Another nonprofit, Reading Partners, was awarded $15,000 from the fund to provide equipment for 10 new remote tutoring centers in the Tri-County region. More than 260 students in Title 1 schools in Charleston and Berkeley counties continued receiving support from tutors at the centers while using a new online platform.
“Reading Partners is so thankful for the investment from CCF to help launch our Reading Partners Connects (RPCx) remote tutoring centers. Covid-19 forced schools to close in the late 2020 school year and has continued to impact and disrupt consistent instruction for our most vulnerable learners. Reading Partners was able to pivot and bring its one-on-one, evidence-based literacy intervention to a virtual space so that our students could still be supported,” said Kecia Greenho, Sr. Executive Director of Reading Partners. “The CCF Covid-19 investment was integral to our ability to staff and provide all supplies needed to set up these tutoring centers.”
Coastal Community Foundation has a long history of providing relief and recovery support to communities affected by natural disasters or other events with widespread ramifications, including every major hurricane since Hurricane Hugo in 1989. In these challenging times, the community foundation is uniquely positioned to provide its expertise in fundraising, needs-assessment and grantmaking to quickly direct funds to residents and communities most impacted.
CCF does not collect any fees for these funds, so 100 percent of donations go directly to the needs on the ground.
“We have been deeply moved by the collective generosity and servitude demonstrated by our region’s donors, nonprofits and community partners over the past two years. Together with their support and wisdom, we acted quickly and creatively to deploy vital resources to the most vulnerable,” said Coastal Community Foundation President and CEO Darrin Goss. “At the same time, we know the work of recovery is not done. The uneven effects of the pandemic have laid bare the systemic inequities in our region that can no longer be left to resolve themselves, and we will continue to leverage our partnerships and resources to address these needs and challenges head-on.”
In March 2020, Coastal Community Foundation assembled a coalition of regional affiliates and philanthropic organizations to pool resources and launch the COVID-19 Relief & Recovery Fund, which was seeded with $140,000. The coalition included Waccamaw Community Foundation, Frances P. Bunnelle Foundation, Black River United Way, the Chapin Foundation, the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Social Venture Partners Charleston, Trident United Way, United Way of Horry County and United Way of the Lowcountry.
Nearly a quarter of the total funds raised were contributed by fundholders of CCF, including an early $500,000 matching grant from the family fund of Blackbaud founder Tony Bakker, his wife, Linda Bakker, and their two children, James Bakker and Katy Bakker McKee.