The Community Foundation for Southwest Washington’s Social Justice and Resiliency Fund has received $850,000 in gifts, and $170,000 in grants have already been awarded to five Southwest Washington nonprofits.
The fund was created last June to provide grants to local nonprofits that support historically marginalized communities. Nonprofits led by and serving underrepresented populations are prioritized for funding.
Three regional health care agencies — Beacon Health Options, PeaceHealth and Southwest Washington Accountable Community of Health — contributed more than one-third of the total gifts received by the fund, according to Jennifer Rhoads, president of the Community Foundation.
“Health care professionals have seen and felt the immense costs of our flawed systems, and they are dedicated to improving outcomes for everyone,” Rhoads said in a press release. “These gifts offer healing beyond medical offices because they invest in community solutions to improve the social determinants of health.”
Other gifts came from small donations collected at the Community Foundation’s annual Give More 24! fundraiser.
So far, five nonprofits have been awarded grants: League of United Latin American Citizens Council 47013, Comunidades, Office Moms and Dads, Hispanic Disability Support SWWA and OneAmerica.
Nonprofits receive general operating and capacity building support from the grants, which allows them to allocate the funds to where they are most needed, according to Rhoads.
Grants from the fund are already being used.
LULAC Council 47013 is funding its career development program for Latino youth.
“The Community Foundation has been very helpful to us during the time of COVID to make sure that our families have what they need,” said LULAC Council 47013 President Edward Hamilton Rosales. “This grant will help us to provide access to mental health and child services and to ensure that our at-risk children are able to reach their best selves.”
Hispanic Disability Support SWWA is funding a part-time position to help assist its more than 200 members.
“The number of families coming to us was growing even before COVID, and with COVID, the numbers of families accelerated,” said Hispanic Disability Support SWWA Executive Director Gabriela Ewing. “This new position will help us to provide services. Its difficult to cover so many people at once with only so many people. This is a great help for our organization to be able to cover the needs of the community.”
Comunidades is working with local Latino leaders in the Columbia River Gorge on projects related to the environment and social justice.
Office Moms and Dads, an organization that provides support for children in foster care, plans to recruit more volunteers of color to work with the disproportionate number of children of color in Southwest Washington’s foster care system, according to Office Moms and Dads Executive Director Sarah Desjarlais.
Desjarlais stressed that economics can be a barrier for potential volunteers. The organization wants to provide more accessible volunteering opportunities and to recruit volunteers from underrepresented communities through outreach and education.
In 2020, The Foundation launched its COVID Response Fund that allocated some $8.5 million in grants.
The Social Justice and Resiliency Fund grew out of that initiative, according to Foundation spokesperson Maury Harris. It was created to bolster nonprofits that support marginalized communities as Southwest Washington moves from relief to recovery in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Harris said $500,000 was redistributed from the COVID Response Fund to the Social Justice and Resilience Fund to jump-start it. He said lessons learned from the previous fund are informing the new one.
“The pandemic showed us once again that marginalized communities suffer the greatest consequences and are often the last and least to benefit during periods of recovery,” said Rhoads. “With this dedicated fund, we hope to give communities the resources they need to speed up the pace of change and build on their existing strengths.”
Grants are distributed based on ongoing conversations between nonprofit administrators and foundation staff, or a brief application open to all local nonprofits. Organizations interested in applying and people interested in donating to the fund can find information on the foundation’s website.