As of July 15, 2020, the Grand Bend Community Foundation (GBCF) had granted more than $100,000 to charities on the frontlines of the pandemic. The funds for this effort were raised in a few weeks during the spring lockdown.
“We have an established grant making process,” says Chair Deb Gill. “People apply in September and we make decisions in October. But when we saw what was happening with COVID, that all changed on a dime.”
Gill says the Foundation began fundraising for COVID relief in March, and then partnered with the Rotary Club of Grand Bend to hold the Stay-at-Home Gala in early May. The community responded with overwhelming generosity. When the federal Emergency Community Support Program came online later in May, GBCF stepped up to help distribute the funds.
Meanwhile, recognizing the urgent need created by the pandemic, the Foundation began making grants almost immediately. Among the beneficiaries: the Huron County Food Bank Distribution Centre, Huron Women’s Shelter, South Huron District Hospital, Blue Water Rest Home, One Care Home and Community Services, Community Living South Huron, and the Community Table.
One innovative project involved funding local schools to hire unemployed supply teachers to provide one-on-one tutoring to children at risk. “We were overjoyed to receive this money,” says Abby Armstrong, Principal at Exeter Elementary School, “because we had a number of students who were struggling with the unusual education system that was in place in May and June. Giving them the extra help they needed means they will be closer to where we want them to be at the start of the next school year.” Armstrong adds that the project also benefited qualified teachers who were without income during the school closure.
Another grant supported Big Brothers Big Sisters South Huron as they adapted to the new reality. “The funding helped us to upgrade our technology so that we could offer our group program virtually,” says Executive Director Amy Wilhelm. “The Foundation also provided some rent relief which enabled us to focus on the kids, rather than stressing about expenses.”
Gill is proud of the way the Foundation responded to the crisis, but even more proud of the community support that enabled it. “I was deeply touched by the generosity of people in the region, even in the midst of an economic shutdown. It filled me with hope for the post-COVID future – for our ability to build back even stronger, more just communities.”