Seeded by a matching donation of $25,000 by the Meicher Family Foundation and a contribution of $25,000 from UW Health, UnityPoint Meriter and Quartz Health Insurance, a community collaborative has raised over $200,000 in just under 24 hours to assist families affected directly and indirectly by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Boys and Girls Club of Dane County is acting as fiscal agent for the fund. Donations are being accepted on the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County website.
Boys and Girls Club of Dane County CEO Michael Johnson and Selfless Ambition CEO Henry Sanders announced the Dane County COVID Emergency Fund with a goal of $50,000 Friday evening in a video on Madison365’s Facebook page.
Sanders is also publisher of Madison365.
By 10 am Saturday, over $103,000 had been donated or pledged, Johnson said, including $50,000 from United Way and its donors as well as contributions from about 40 individuals, and the goal had been revised up to $250,000, which Johnson said he hoped to have donated by Friday, March 20.
Saturday afternoon, Johnson announced on Facebook that Dan and Patti Rashke of the TASC Family Foundation had pledged another $100,000.
Johnson said the funds will be managed by a committee of community members and aimed at five distinct areas of need:
- Medical supplies for those who are impacted by this virus
- Meals for kids due to school closures
- Funds to distribute to local shelters in support of families and individuals in need
- Funds to support college students who are in need of temporary housing and meals
- Funds to support senior citizens who may need meals, transportation and medical assistance.
Governor Tony Evers on Friday ordered all schools closed from March 18 through at least April 6. Additionally, Dane County Public Health has ordered a stop to all gatherings of 250 people or more, which will have a significant impact on the live entertainment and events industry and its workers.
“I think about the moms, the single parents at home, trying to figure out what they’re going to do now that the kids are at home and how they’re going to pay the bills,” Sanders said at a press conference Saturday. “We thought about how we’re going to help the families in the shelters. We also wanted to show at a time when there’s so much division in the country, how we can bring people together to show that we can unify to help people in need. It’s going to be a lot of work, and we’re going to need all your help.”
“When you close down schools, that’s going to have a major impact on families and how you feed 27,000 kids in Madison alone. There’s thousands of part-time workers that are going to be impacted,” Johnson said.
Johnson said Rebalanced Life Wellness Association founder Aaron Perry would chair the committee. Perry said the makeup of the committee will be decided in the next few days.
Johnson said the money will primarily be distributed through nonprofit social service agencies, but he hoped to have systems in place to distribute funds quickly to those in need.
Community nonprofit leader Jacqueline Hunt said it’s important for some of the funds and support to find its way to grassroots organizations.
“Be mindful that sometimes people are intimidated by systems and may or may not understand how to navigate those systems,” she said. “Having a trusted individual that they already have a relationship with bring those necessary resources to those people in our community at this very critical time is super important.”
Several community leaders said it’s time for people of different communities to come together to face the crisis.
Speaking on behalf of the African American Council of Churches, Rev. Marcus Allen of Mt. Zion Baptist Church invoked the parable of the Good Samaritan.
“The question we are asking is ‘Who is my neighbor? Who am I willing to help?’ Not just because of the color of their skin or their economic situation, but because they are people in need,” Allen said.
“It’s a very serious situation,” said Juan Jose Lopez of the Latino Consortium for Action. “The Black and brown and Native American and Asian American, the GLBTQ community, we need to come together to address these kinds of issues and concerns.”
Boys and Girls Club Board President Leslie Petty said she was encouraged by the community response.
“This is exactly what hope looks like. Thank you to those who have already contributed,” she said. “It’s really about what we can do, especially in a time of crisis. This is a time of crisis. There are many who do not know where their next meal will come from. There are many who do not know how they can make their next medical appointment. It is us pulling together within this community to make this happen.”
Those interested in donating can do so online at the Boys and Girls Club website.