A $25,000 grant to the Crisis Center to cover the increased need for crisis and suicide counseling; $50,000 to UAB’s Minority Health and Disparities Research Center (MHRC) to support a program to provide vulnerable neighborhoods access to COVID-19 testing and care; $25,000 to Miles College to provide emergency assistance to students with financial needs; $5,000 to Coosa Riverkeeper for water quality monitoring due to increased public use of waterways during the crisis; $20,000 to Blount County Education Foundation to support summer camp with COVID-19 safety measures; $5,000 to Run Bike & Swim for remote fitness programming for children in Bessemer and beyond; and $50,000 to the City of Birmingham to advance the work of Birmingham Strong to engage displaced workers through the Birmingham Resilient Worker Fund.

These are just a few of the 98 Emergency Response Grants totaling $1.5 million that have been awarded by the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham – the majority of them to assist the most vulnerable residents of our region who are facing the immediate demands of the unprecedented public health and economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March, the Foundation reallocated more than $1 million from its competitive grantmaking funds as the resource for the initial emergency phase of response to the COVID-19 crisis. The first grants were awarded in early April and continued on a weekly basis through early June. In this first phase of funding, 46 grants totaling $789,000 were issued for immediate and basic needs for economically vulnerable populations. These included support food distribution programs and emergency assistance for families in Jefferson, Blount, Shelby, St. Clair and Walker counties; funding for four community-based mental health care centers; and two grants to provide temporary housing for groups unable to self-quarantine. Grants were also made to 32 different organizations to assist in adapting their operations to avoid or mitigate disruptions in delivery of their services.

In addition to emergency response grantmaking, the Foundation awarded more than $400,000 to support crucial initiatives addressing the impact of the crisis. These grants supported COVID-19 testing in vulnerable neighborhoods, allowed for innovative vaccine research at Southern Research and bolstered the work of the Birmingham Service Corps, a program for workers who lost jobs due to the pandemic. Funding for these grants were made possible through the Catalyst Funds and donations to the Foundation’s Emergency Response Fund which was reopened in March.

“Our Emergency Response Fund has been utilized for more than 20 years to support our region during times of need,” Community Foundation President and CEO Christopher Nanni said in reopening the fund. “This fund allows us to raise and mobilize resources and provide support to communities throughout our region that are disproportionally impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.”

The Community Foundation also partnered with the City of Birmingham to open the Birmingham Strong Fund, an emergency loan fund for small businesses in Birmingham and the Birmingham Business Relief Fund in response to the civil unrest which caused damage to many small businesses in the downtown area.

“Donor support for the Emergency Response Fund, Birmingham Strong Fund, Birmingham Business Relief Fund and our Donor Advised Fund Giving Together partnership has been generous,” said Nanni. “To date, nearly 500 donors have given more than $2.6 million to these funds.” The gifts have come in all sizes, from $5 to $250,000 from individuals, corporations and national funders like the Hearst Foundation.

“These contributions give us a sense of hope as we work in partnership with the community to continue supporting our neighbors, frontline workers, nonprofits, small businesses, and those who are most vulnerable to the effects of this pandemic,” said Nanni.

The Foundation is working on plans for a second phase of grantmaking to respond to the crisis. “We conducted a survey to better understand how this crisis is evolving and received input from more than 250 respondents,” said Nanni. “based on the information we received we continue to respond to the critical needs of the community and begin to address the longer-term challenge of securing economic recovery for the region.” He said an announcement about the next phase of grantmaking will be made in early July.