Helping neighbors — now

This March, our world turned upside down: COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, many of our favorite local establishments closed, friends and neighbors lost their jobs, and social distancing became a necessity to protect our families and flatten the curve of new infections. At Adirondack Foundation, we’ve been heartbroken by the stories of need and also uplifted by the generosity and innovation we are seeing.

The emotional, social and economic toll of “life on pause” is especially hard on children in low-income households, the working poor and seniors. As the crisis labors on, our communities will all need additional resources to protect the most vulnerable among us and eventually inch our way back — perhaps stronger than we were. Some assistance will come in the way of federal relief, but philanthropy can and must play a vital role.

Adirondack Foundation’s Special and Urgent Needs Fund, or the SUN Fund for short, has distributed $192,285 in grants to 30 organizations for COVID-19 response in just two weeks. We are deeply grateful to the Cloudsplitter and Charles R. Wood foundations, United Way of the Adirondack Region, Adirondack Energy, Champlain National Bank and other generous donors for helping us respond so quickly. Those grant awards, however, are only meeting 53% of the requests we have received.

The urgent need for support comes straight from our neighbors whose actions are aided through SUN Fund grants:

¯ “I almost cried when I opened it. I’ve never been in a position where I’ve needed help like this, so it’s not easy, but this is a huge relief,” one recipient said in an email to AdkAction, which is working with partners to assemble and distribute emergency food packages with locally raised and grown foods for those in need.

¯ The YMCA in Plattsburgh/Malone in short order is working with partners to offer child care for essential workers who have no other options for their infants, toddlers or school-age children. The Y is even catering its hours to hospital shifts, starting at 6:30 a.m.

¯ The Joint Council for Economic Opportunity of Clinton and Franklin Counties (JCEO) is addressing a dire need: Many local food pantries, particularly those in remote locations, operate on $500 per year. They simply cannot keep serving people without additional resources.

¯ The Salvation Army — with volunteers in Chateauguay, Malone, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Old Forge, AuSable Forks, Port Henry, Ticonderoga, Star Lake, Cranberry Lake, Hague, North Hudson, Schroon and Crown Point — is helping to cover rent payments, fuel bills and car repairs for people in need.

As the requests roll in day after day, we are seeing that local needs are intensifying. We appeal to all of our giving community members to help ensure there are resources to respond to urgent needs. We owe it to our neighbors to stand together and stay in this for the long haul.

Adirondack Foundation is the only community foundation that proudly serves all communities inside the Adirondack Park boundary as well as all of Clinton and Franklin counties. Please know that the foundation and its partners are here for you. Gifts to the SUN Fund for COVID-19 response are investments in the lives and livelihoods of our neighbors, our respected elders and the promise of our youth. This is a time not to hesitate, but to be bold and compassionate. Like the mountains, we can rise together.

(Cali Brooks is president and CEO of the Adirondack Foundation, based in Lake Placid.)

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