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Non-Profits Pivot To Help In Pandemic

The Amazing Give this year will run from 6 p.m. on March 21 to 6 p.m. on March 22. (Celeste Cardone/ WUFT News)
The Amazing Give this year will run from 6 p.m. on March 21 to 6 p.m. on March 22. (Celeste Cardone/ WUFT News)

It is hard for Dream On Purpose to host its quarterly Cupcakes and Conversations event without cupcakes and, well, conversation, said Shareen Baptiste, the organization’s co-founder and president.

Baptiste is just one of many non-profit leaders who are having to quickly adapt to keep helping those who need them now more than ever. 

Cupcakes and Conversations usually draws 30 to 50 girls seeking empowerment and support. The event will now be held virtually in May, with counselors available to discuss the stresses of COVID-19. Baptiste expects more girls to tune in than usually attend the event because of the added emotional and mental pandemic pressures. 

The Community Foundation of North Central Florida, which works to help keep non-profit organizations financially afloat, has repurposed its annual Amazing Give donation drive, originally scheduled for April 22 and April 23.   

“In light of the pandemic, we decided to change because the past four- or five-years, Amazing Give has been a community celebration with pop-up events,” said Barzella Papa, the Community Foundation's CEO and president. “But we decided it wasn’t an appropriate time to celebrate.”  

The Amazing Give Emergency Relief, using an online donation system, began March 19 and will continue until the end of this pandemic. It has so far raised $115,000, according to Papa. 

“The word of the week is pivot,” she said. 

The foundation plans to assess the needs of local non-profits facing financial insecurities and employment furloughs every two weeks. 

Papa said that, after hearing back from 85 organizations, it has found that "62% have less than three months of operating reserves with 24% having zero reserves." 

About half the organizations said they are seeing a decrease in donations and only 12% said there has been no financial impact. 

Baptiste said Dream on Purpose must still pay a monthly insurance fee, while losing revenue because in-person funding has been canceled. So efforts like the Amazing Give Emergency Relief are much appreciated, she said.  

Amazing Give is also helping the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention, which has temporarily closed. 

Sue Draddy, the museum’s marketing director, said Amazing Give and other donors have allowed Cade to retain its staff while shifting activities online. 

The museum's “Cade at home” program offers eight accessible lesson plans and is developing more each week. The museum is also launching a story-time reading program for their “little sparks,” ages 1 through 5. On top of that, Cade tech will hold 3D modeling classes, and once a week the museum will partner with a restaurant to promote local business. This program will feature recipes and cocktails to make at home that incorporate science in cooking. 

Meanwhile, the National Alliance on Mental Illness has never been busier, according to the executive director Arthur Stockwell.  

The organization is offering virtual support groups and mentoring, while also manning its very busy hotline. Stockwell said donations are being used to supply people in need of counseling with computers and help with grocery expenses. 

Food demand is at a high with people furloughed and stuck at home. 

In 2019, Bread of the Mighty Food Bank distributed more than 8.4 million pounds of food to five counties, 6.7 million of which went to people in Alachua county, said Karen Woolfstead, communications development director. From March to April 16, Bread of the Mighty has processed more than 1.9 million pounds of food, about 50% more than what its 25 staff members usually handle, according to Woolfstead. 

At the beginning of the quarantine, she said, meat, produce and dairy were difficult for Bread of the Mighty to find.

“The worst hardship is just getting enough food in,” Woolfstead said. “Right now, we’re doing what we do every day all year, just to the max.” 

One dollar can provide 10 meals, so donations are helping feed the community, she said, adding that one in five adults are going hungry and one in four children. In Alachua County, she estimated there are 10,000 hungry children. 

So far, Bread of the Mighty has raised $3,200 on Amazing Give alone, plus outside funds through corporate donors like Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company ($45,000) and Florida Blue ($40,000). 

The longer people are not getting paid, Woolfstead said, the more Bread of the Mighty’s services will be needed throughout North Central Florida. 

“This thing is horrible,” Woolfstead said. “But people are wonderful and generous.” 

Mia is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.