More than $14.5 million has been donated to organizations serving those most impacted by the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis announced Wednesday.
The donations were spearheaded by the Mid-South COVID-19 Regional Response Fund, a philanthropic response to the pandemic created by the Community Foundation in 2020.
“The Mid-South will respond to a call to action, and the generosity of donors supported a massive, deeply impactful effort to support vulnerable populations and those most affected by the threat to their health, wellbeing and economic stability,” said Robert M. Fockler, president of the Community Foundation, in a news release.
The money is made up of 968 contributions from corporate, foundation and individual donors, the Community Foundation said. These contributions included an $8 million donation from novelist and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott in December of 2020.
One hundred percent of the money donated was distributed, according to the foundation. While the early days of COVID saw the Fund meet individual needs like food, supplies and emergency services, the foundation said it soon transitioned into using the money to provide grants to help stabilize the local nonprofit sector.
Money was handed out in three phases; immediate relief, recovery and resilience. Grants were awarded in three states, Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas and some organizations, such as Alpha Omega Veterans Services, JUICE Orange Mound, Refugee Empowerment Program and Sweet Cheeks Diaper Ministry, received grants in all three phases of the distribution. According to the foundation, 58% of grantee organizations were led by people of color.
“The COVID crisis disproportionately affected communities of color, and it was important to support organizations by and for Black and brown Memphians,” Fockler said in the release. “As we mark the anniversary of COVID’s presence, we recognize that nonprofits and small businesses are still feeling its effects and need support as much as ever.”
Grants handed out included money to support LITE Memphis. LITE, which stands for Let’s Innovate Through Education, is an organization focused on helping “African American and Latino/a/x students to close the racial wealth gap by becoming entrepreneurs and securing high-wage jobs.” At the start of the pandemic, the fund allocated money to help provide computer access to LITE students and to help pay staff.
An advisory committee made up of representatives from the Community Foundation, the City of Memphis, the Shelby County Government, United Way of the Mid-South and Momentum Nonprofit Partners/Mid-South Philanthropy Network made the decision of which organizations to give grants to.
Gina Butkovich covers DeSoto County, storytelling and general news. She can be reached at 901-232-6714 or on Twitter @gigibutko.