A third of private giving happens in the first four weeks of a sudden disaster and the remaining two-thirds of giving occurs within two months thereafter, according to a 2018 report from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. This giving stops almost completely after five or six months, with less funding available for the critical phases of recovery and rebuilding.
But this has not been the case in the Jewish Greater Philadelphia region. Due to the communities’ resilience and continued generosity, the response to the economic, social and emotional impact of COVID-19 has not followed the general pattern of severe decline in resources over time.
Since last March, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia has continually worked with local agencies to address the needs of those most vulnerable. The Jewish community donated millions of dollars and volunteered their time to provide nutritious meals to the food insecure, friendly phone calls to and technology access for isolated seniors, three-ply surgical masks distribution to first-responders and at-risk populations, job resources to the newly unemployed, and other critical services.
This steadfast support is essential in adapting to the ever-changing landscape of those in need and how agencies are able to serve them.
“Providing food security for our community members remains a priority and a challenge,” said Brian Gralnick, director of the Jewish Federation’s social responsibility efforts. “The pandemic has caused dramatic reductions in the types of foods available from food banks and, as a result, food pantries are spending more out of pocket to make up for reduced supply and variety.”
In addition to the Jewish Federation’s ongoing relief efforts, the organization was approached by The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) with an opportunity to make an even greater impact. It was a human services match challenge, locally called the Maimonides Fund.
In just six short weeks, the Jewish Federation raised more than $1 million, which was matched with $500,000 by JFNA for a total of $1.6 million of funding for service agencies that focus on housing, food, medical care and mental health assistance.
“The JFNA Funds were immensely helpful, because they provided additional resources after the typical decrease in disaster funding and created a way for donors to have an even greater impact with their end of year giving,” Gralnick said.
The Maimonides Fund grants were distributed to 13 local agencies as a way to provide rent or utility relief, extra meals, technology upgrades and assistance, supermarket gift cards, transportation for clients to get their COVID vaccines, and health and safety item purchases. The funds will also help cover expenses for additional staff and overtime costs that are necessary to meet the growing demand.