November 12, 2020

Cameron Foundation awards more than $800,000 in regular fall cycle, nearly $900,000 in COVID emergency grants

The Cameron Foundation has made $806,447 in new awards to 25 nonprofits serving the Tri-Cities region, resulting from requests in the Foundation’s October responsive grant cycle.

Beyond its regular funding cycles offered each year, during 2020, the Foundation also has launched a series of special initiatives in response to the pandemic. “These various tools reflect the Foundation’s active efforts to keep pace with our community’s current needs,” noted Cameron’s Board Chair, Pam Martin Comstock.

For school systems across the region, the Foundation has launched two separate funding initiatives. The School System Technology Infrastructure Grant Program was announced in the spring to provide one-time financial assistance of up to $50,000 per division to help schools transition to delivering instruction virtually. Cameron awarded a total of $314,355 to seven school districts to assist with technology needs.

More recently, many of these school systems have faced significant new costs related to COVID-19 with the opening of the 2020-2021 school year, regardless of whether they adopted a virtual, in-person or hybrid approach to instruction. The Foundation responded with its Schools Reopening Grant Program, designed to award up to $50,000 in emergency funds per division to help these local school systems purchase items such as personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, portable air cleaners, Chromebooks and MiFi devices for student use. So far, Cameron has awarded $299,997 in support of the reopening needs of local school districts.

Complementing the special funding for schools across the region, the Foundation also launched its COVID-19 Emergency Grant Program in the spring. This initiative addresses key areas of impact that the coronavirus crisis is having on the public and nonprofit sectors in the Tri-Cities and surrounding counties. Cameron has awarded $262,271 to 24 organizations so far this year to address the impacts of the pandemic.

A number of the recipients in the latest responsive grant cycle had been awarded COVID-19 Emergency Grants earlier in the year. “Many of these organizations experienced special COVID-related needs, but they also have a need for ongoing funding to support their regular operations and programming,” explained Cameron’s Grants Committee Chair, Jeff Geisz.

Central Virginia Legal Aid Society was the largest responsive grant recipient this time, with an award of $90,000 to support its free legal services in the Tri-Cities area. The nonprofit law firm assists vulnerable residents with legal issues related to consumer, domestic violence, employment, elder care, family health, housing, and public benefits. Central Virginia Legal Aid Society serves an average of 27,000 persons annually.

In addition to this responsive grant, the organization received COVID-19 Emergency Grant support this past summer to add videoconferencing technology to its Petersburg office. In light of additional safety precautions introduced during the pandemic, this new capability connects the organization’s clients and advocates to the courthouses where they need to appear.

Downtown Churches United, another grantee in Cameron’s October cycle, represents a union of 35 members, including faith organizations and human service organizations, that respond to the basic needs of those in the greater Petersburg area. It offers a daily lunch service for 75-100 people; a food pantry that serves over 800 households per month; as well as emergency utility, rental and mortgage assistance for approximately 45 clients each month. The organization relies on more than 2,600 volunteers to deliver these programs. Its responsive grant of $33,323 supports the organization’s operations.

Earlier this year, the Foundation awarded a $6,799 COVID-19 Emergency Grant to Downtown Churches United so that it could repower its walk-in freezer system as well as purchase computer equipment to enable it to provide services during the pandemic. Today, it continues to operate both of its food programs. It has increased client access to the food pantry from bimonthly to monthly eligibility and has partnered with the City of Petersburg to provide 25 bags of groceries each week to senior citizens.

On November 2, Downtown Churches United received special recognition by Governor Ralph Northam with the presentation of a 2020 Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Award.

Cameron President J. Todd Graham commented on the organization receiving this honor, saying, “It’s encouraging to see how so many of our local nonprofit organizations are persevering through the pandemic, finding new ways to provide essential services despite the unanticipated challenges they face. And, the news that Downtown Churches United has just received recognition from the Governor’s office for its outstanding work amplifies how valued these nonprofits are to our community.”

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