Washington Foundation donates $450K for coronavirus response

Washington Foundation donates $450K for coronavirus response

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Food Bank Donation 1 (copy)

Gayle Carlson, chief executive officer of the Montana Food Bank Network, and Bill Mathews, chief development officer, stand in the organization's warehouse in Missoula last fall. Wednesday, the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation announced it has awarded $450,000 to frontline organizations throughout Montana that can support people's basic needs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Montana Food Bank Network is among the recipients and counts 380 partners across the state.

The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation announced Wednesday it has awarded $450,000 to 86 organizations that fill basic needs in communities across Montana in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The award includes $300,000 in direct grants for emergency response to the health crisis and an additional $150,000 in matching grant opportunities. If all the organizations leverage the 50% match, the total amount that will support safety net programs will be $600,000, including the $450,000 from the Washington Foundation.

Washington Foundation Executive Director Mike Halligan said the recipients based in 47 of the state's 56 counties all are critically important to helping Montana's most vulnerable citizens. Most are food banks and pantries, and he said the Foundation tapped organizations that already are working on the front lines and able to quickly deploy resources. That approach both minimizes administrative costs and most efficiently gets resources to people who need them.

Among those receiving funds are organizations that help people who are homeless, rescue missions, the United Way, and Salvation Army agencies "to address the explosion in demand for their services."

"The Foundation wants to help alleviate the strain placed on these organizations by the COVID-19 crisis by giving them a cash infusion now, while at the same time helping them generate additional resources by leveraging our donation," Halligan said.

In an announcement about the awards, the Foundation noted that addressing the ongoing social and human service needs associated with the pandemic is an evolving crisis and may require the distribution of additional resources.

In a telephone interview, Halligan said the Foundation is also asking how it can support health care needs, such as the demand for supplies such as test kits and masks. To that end, he is in communication with the head of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.

"We are exploring, as other foundations are, where is the best place for us to play a role that is the most impactful," Halligan said.

He noted the matching grant is important because it creates ownership in the local community and is intended to create donors who will continue to support an organization over the long run. The matching grant also helps diversify the funding base for smaller agencies so they can potentially weather the crisis more easily.

The Montana Food Bank Network is among the recipients of the current Foundation donation, awarded $25,000 plus a $12,500 matching grant opportunity. Network CEO Gayle Carlson said the organization works with 380 partners across the state of Montana, including schools, senior centers and food banks and pantries.

She said some pantries have reported double their typical number of visits, and a lot of people who are newly out of work. "The demand is now increasing, not just with the kids but with the households, and sustaining all of this is going to be the next challenge," Carlson said.

She said many of the organizations have placed significant orders with the Network, "probably exceeding our inventory." So she said the Network started ordering additional food supplies, and one of the challenges is a two- to four-week delay in deliveries, but she anticipates some of the orders will start to come in this week or next.

The Montana Food Bank Network serves the entire state, and Carlson said people who want to help should make a financial contribution to the Network (because of security concerns, the Network can't accept food donations) or donate to their local food bank. See mfbn.org for more information.

In its announcement about the donations, the Washington Foundation strongly encouraged people who are able to contribute to contact an organization in their area about making a matching donation. The list of organizations is online with this story.

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