The COVID-19 Pandemic has profoundly affected almost every aspect of daily life, from the way we work and learn to the way we do business and serve others. The non-profit community faces the same practical revenue challenges as businesses, but it comes at a time when, for many, their services are most needed in the community.
HONESDALE -- The web of collaboration embodied in Wayne Tomorrow! creates an advantage in times of crisis and the Wayne County Community Foundation is clear proof.
In the summer of 2019, the foundation hired its first, full-time executive director, Ryanne Jennings, to begin to expand its role in supporting community and economic development in Wayne County. The Foundation, as a non-profit 501©3, can serve as the applicant for certain types of grants or provide a tax-deductible fundraising vehicle, among other roles.
The Emergency Food Relief Program is the perfect example of how this works. The foundation created the Emergency Food Relief Fund, to which businesses and individuals have donated more than a quarter of a million dollars to date. The County Food Pantry used the funds to pay for supplemental food for families and individuals and a grand collaboration of agencies, organizations and volunteers used it to feed thousands in April and May. The fresh, local products continue to be purchased to supplement the monthly Food Pantry distributions.
Throughout the pandemic, Jennings and the Foundation have been building partnerships and working to support the non-profit sector. She said she helped review applications for Wayne County grants as part of a larger, regional grant-making program. The four regional foundations, including Scranton, Luzerne and Pike, raised half a million dollars for local non-profits through the NEPA Gives Campaign in June.
The Wayne County Community Foundation also launched its micro-lending program called the “Circle of Aunts and Uncles” to support local entrepreneurs this fall.
Jennings said this is a new strategy for the Community Foundation. “It’s about having a seat at the table to help tackle emerging community needs,” she said. Specifically, the Wayne Tomorrow! Fund was established in late 2019 to support projects chosen as priorities by the initiative.
The value of the Wayne Tomorrow! partnerships cannot be overlooked. “COVID highlighted the importance of the relationships in Wayne Tomorrow! By going to the meetings, you get to know (the partner organization’s) strengths and capacity so you can quickly assemble the right people at the table (when needed).”
While the pandemic continues to force organizations to be nimble, Jennings said in 2021, she hopes to assist the non-profit community by supporting capacity building with learning opportunities on topics like budgeting, fundraising or human resources. “Most of our non-profits are small so they do a lot with what they have and better efficiency can go a long way,” she said.
The Wayne County Community Foundation, founded in 1991, currently manages more than $5 million in assets, which are invested in local financial institutions where the funds continue to support community investment.