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 from this fund 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.
United Way of Lebanon County formed the COVID-19 Community Support Fund Committee. 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. René Numer, Director of Human Resources at APR Supply Co. and Co-Chair of the committee said, “Initially, we saw a large need for the basics - food and housing. With the recent awarding of state and federal programs available to support these areas, we want to be flexible and responsive to other COVID-related needs as they arise.” United Way’s Coronavirus Community Support Fund has raised over $36k of its $50k goal as of the date of this press release.