When the COVID-19 pandemic invaded our local community, United Way of Lebanon County anticipated that there would be unexpected short and long terms needs. Accordingly, the organization responded quickly to establish a fund to support local nonprofit organizations. These organizations are critical in supporting community members, utilizing their already limited revenue, in response to this everchanging community crisis.
The first round of grants awarded in May 2020 were distributed to support the following areas of identified need:
- Food Security for Students and Community Members ($5,000): When schools were ordered to close around the state, school districts across the county immediately began to establish feeding programs to ensure food security among their students. Eastern Lebanon County School District was not initially approved for full reimbursement from the federal food program. This did not change the need in the community. Lebanon County Christian Ministries (LCCM) stepped in and partnered with ELCO food services to meet those unmet needs. Not surprisingly, LCCM also experienced a marked increase in free noon meal participants. This grant was able to address food security needs among local students and the community at large.
- Housing for Domestic Violence Survivors and their Children ($3,000): COVID-19 has created loss of work for residents across the county. This impacted domestic violence survivors too, resulting in the need to shelter them longer. In addition, congregate living situations make it challenging to comply with social distancing guidelines. In order to keep survivors and their children healthy and safe, it was necessary to move shelter residents to hotel rooms. This grant provides support to Domestic Violence Intervention to manage the increased expenses of hotel rooms to ensure the wellbeing of survivors during this pandemic.
- Emergency Housing for Homeless Families ($5,000): FRESH Start, our only family shelter in Lebanon County, was forced to identify alternate ways to house their guests. Typically, families would be housed overnight in local churches monitored by volunteers. With closures of many businesses and organizations, as well as restrictions on volunteers during this pandemic, those locations were no longer a viable option. Lebanon County Christian Ministries arranged for guests to be temporarily housed in hotel rooms. This was a financially viable option through a six week stay, but with the emergency situation lasting longer than anyone had anticipated, more support is needed to ensure these community members have a safe place to stay.
The second round of grants awarded in June 2020 were distributed to support the following areas of identified need:
- Safely Reopening Childcare and Summer Camp ($5,000) – When Lebanon County entered the yellow phase of reopening, the Lebanon YMCA was able to once again provide childcare programs and school age care for families with a working parent(s). This requires PPE for children and staff as well as specialized signage to ensure a safe, clean environment. Additionally, the YMCA Summer Camp that was scheduled to start on June 8 operates in school buildings, which are not yet cleared to move forward. If the camps are not held in schools where students get PA childcare financial assistance, parents will not be eligible for this state assistance. This grant will help ensure that the YMCA does not have to turn a family away because they cannot afford the program as well as stock the childcare center with the necessary PPE to reopen safely.
- Ensuring Safety Precautions to Resume In-person Medical Services ($5,000) – Lebanon Family Health Services offers a variety of health and educational services for some of our community’s most vulnerable population, including serving as our county’s facilitator for the WIC (Women, Infants & Children) supplemental nutrition program. Services were transitioned to telehealth as much as possible throughout the pandemic, with some in-person visits being medically necessary. As LFHS transitions to external events such as drive up and curbside services, as well as more patients returning to in person, there is an added expense to prepare including additional PPE and Plexiglas dividers. This grant will help with the transition and ensure safety for patients, clients, and staff.
- Updating Technology to Support Victims of Sexual Assault ($3,065) - Sexual Assault Resource and Counseling Center had to quickly shift to provide their essential services virtually when the pandemic arose. This exposed a need for updated technology to ensure that counselors, advocates, therapists, and community educators could continue to provide scheduled counseling and therapy sessions and educational programs. They received a donation of laptops to help with these efforts. This grant will allow SARCC to equip these laptops with the required software and operating systems to provide services and programs virtually.
- Replenishing PPE for Continued Safety at Free Clinic ($4,730) – Lebanon Valley Volunteers In Medicine was the only free clinic to in Lebanon County to provide in-person, no-cost, primary care services throughout the pandemic. To do this safely, they incurred 7-10 times higher personal protective equipment and medication costs. This grant will help to ensure that the clinic remains fully stocked so that they can continue to help our neighbors receive medical care.
United Way of Lebanon County formed the COVID-19 Community Support Fund Committee to administer the grant process from the Fund. This group is comprised of United Way board members along with additional community members. The committee’s purpose is to make decisions on disbursement of the funds as well as monitoring ongoing areas of COVID-19 related need in our community.