Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
When the novel coronavirus pandemic first struck, the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba leapt into action with an emergency COVID-19 relief response.
"The board quickly agreed to make funds available to local charitable groups on an emergency basis," foundation chief executive officer John Diamond said. "We wanted to help them keep their doors open."
Since then, the public foundation — which pools gifts from donors and distributes earned income to local non-profits and community groups in the province — has given out 48 grants totalling $536,000 to Jewish and non-Jewish non-profit and community groups.
In making the emergency relief disbursements, the foundation — together with its Women’s Endowment Fund — suspended its normal protocols of asking groups to fill out and submit applications.
"We knew they didn’t have resources or time to do that," Diamond said about the first phase of grants in April, totalling $193,800. "Rather than ask them to let us know what they needed, we just wrote cheques."
Jewish groups that received funding included local synagogues, Camp Massad, Jewish Child and Family Service, Winnipeg Jewish Theatre, and Jewish Federation of Winnipeg. Non-Jewish groups included Agape Table, Main Street Project, Winnipeg Harvest, and Siloam Mission.
"The goal was to get the money out as quickly as possible," Diamond said.
Becky Chisick, executive director of the Gwen Secter Creative Living Centre, a non-profit organization serving seniors, said the first grant of $6,700 "was huge to us. It helped in so many different ways as (it) helped isolated seniors."
At Main Street Project, the grant of $25,500 was "incredibly meaningful and important," said Cindy Titus, who directs communications and fund development. "It helped us expand our services and to keep our staff and clients safe."
Gray Academy, a Jewish elementary and high school, said the $12,000 grant helped it pivot to remote learning and prepare for reopening later.
"It helped ensure we had the technology needed for remote learning," said CEO Lori Binder.
Jim Steep, executive director of Agape Table, said the $25,500 helped it deal with an increased need for food and "skyrocketing costs" as the non-profit needed to use non-reusable paper bags, containers and utensils.
"The grant keeps us going," he said. "We are so grateful for that grant. It really helped us with the extra costs."
The foundation followed up that first grant with a second in June worth $210,500 for 11 groups, using its normal application procedures. A third phase of grants is planned for fall; the deadline is Wednesday.
"We did the Phase 2 grants when organizations had a little more clarity about their needs," said Diamond.
The pandemic was an unprecedented opportunity "to see how we could best serve the community," he said, adding that "going forward, we want to ensure the stability and sustainability of the groups we support."
Being able to give the grants was "a great feeling," Diamond said. "I’m proud we could be there to help."
Drew Unger, the foundation’s director of communications and marketing, said it is helping. "Groups are getting back on track... But we know the financial hit is still there."
Some of those losses aren’t recoverable for groups which depend on attendance at events or registrations for spring and summer programs, Unger said.
"Whatever assistance we can provide will help," he said, adding: "We know the needs will only grow."
John Longhurst has been writing for Winnipeg's faith pages since 2003. He also writes for Religion News Service in the U.S., and blogs about the media, marketing and communications at Making the News.
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