April 13, 2020
Eileen EllsworthEileen Ellsworth, President/CEO Community Foundation for Northern VirginiaDear donors, volunteers, grantees, and friends:

“Social distance” strikes me as such a mild, innocuous little phrase that doesn’t even hint at the 1 million small and large choices we are making to stay home, stay safe, and keep others safe as well. Turns out that successful social distancing is a puzzle that needs re-solving every day. And for those with school aged children or elderly parents who are also home and in need of care and attention, solving the daily puzzle is nothing short of heroic. This is the extraordinary role that we ordinary citizens have been asked to play in the COVID-19 pandemic.

But for just a moment, imagine this. On top of social distancing and the threat of the virus, you are laid off with little or no savings and your job is the only source of income that enables you to eat and pay rent. Imagine that you or a family member gets sick – with the virus or otherwise – and you don’t have heath insurance. Imagine you are elderly, homebound, and dependent upon the delivery of meals when the volunteer pool of delivery drivers disappears. Imagine having to shelter in place with an abusive spouse.

We all have a lot on our plate, but thousands of our neighbors have far more to bear in this moment.

The Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund for Northern Virginia is built to help carry the heaviest burdens for those who can’t do this alone - or can’t do this alone anymore. Those for whom future planning is a luxury because today’s needs have overthrown it. Those who are suffering the most with the least wherewithal to weather the storm.

Donations to the Fund have been extraordinary. We have raised over $1.5 million to date, all private philanthropic gifts made by concerned companies, individuals, and foundations across Northern Virginia who just want to help. In the past 3 weeks we have awarded 2 rounds of grants totaling $460,000 from the Fund. These early grants helped meet basic human needs like food, shelter, medications and other necessities. They supported organizations offering childcare for low income residents, first responders and health care workers on the front lines of treating the sick. They made possible meal deliveries and check in calls to homebound elderly. They increased levels of emergency financial assistance payments to low income residents in our neediest neighborhoods, healthcare professionals, gig economy workers in the hospitality and other service industries, military families who are struggling, and many other people facing a personal financial crisis.

Round 3 grants will be awarded next week. They will focus on access to basic, routine health care, mental health care, and dental health care for low income, uninsured and underinsured residents, and on organizations offering direct services to victims of domestic violence which is soaring under stay at home orders across our region. Approximately $350,000+ will be awarded in Round 3.

Every dollar that pours into the COVID-19 Response Fund for Northern Virginia will be invested back into our beloved community and used to help our most vulnerable neighbors get through the economic and social fallout of the pandemic. As promised when we launched the Fund, our grants have been awarded with input from local public health officials, elected officials, foundation peers, and community leaders. We are doing nothing alone on the COVID-19 response.

Meanwhile, a dialogue is emerging on the recovery phase of the crisis and philanthropy’s role therein. As this takes shape, one thing is already clear. We all must do more to address the unsustainable levels of income disparity and economic immobility in the United States. Doing more to level the playing field, to offer new opportunity and encouragement where there isn’t enough to be found, will fortify the economy and make it far more resilient to events like COVID-19 in the future.

With each passing day, we are one day closer to a more normal world. In the meantime, quietly performing the small duties that have been laid at our feet – doing what we must, helping where we can - is an extraordinarily BIG deal.

Take care, stay well.