Monday, November 30, 2020

Local News

Guilford Foundation Raises Money, Keeps Organizations Connected During Crisis

During the current pandemic, people in Guilford and along the shoreline have been turning to The Guilford Foundation, which has served not only as a conduit to disburse desperately needed funds to individuals and charitable organizations but also as a community resource helping non-profits and local leaders collaborate in this critical time.

The foundation has already funded $30,000 of individual grants through the Women & Family Life Center and helping purchase $5,000 worth of masks and protective gear for VNA Community Healthcare and Hospice.

The foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund recently reached $116,000, all of it desperately needed, according to Executive Director Liza Petra, with the foundation recently changing its grant application process to a rolling deadline to ensure organizations can get access to these funds as needed.

The foundation has already distributed $67,000 of that money to local organizations, according to its website.

As the foundation continues to provide financial assistance, Petra said it has also served as a central, coalescing point where civic leaders and local non-profits can coordinate their efforts and assess the needs of the community during a crisis that has no real precedent or road-map.

Petra said she has made this role a key emphasis in her and the foundation’s focus going forward, holding weekly conference calls with local non-profit leaders.

“There’s a lot of innovation and creativity and connectivity,” Petra said. “It’s really wonderful to see people coming together, and we’re seeing a lot of those stories with the business community...but it’s also happening with the non-profits.”

These connections made by the foundation have already yielded fruit, according to Petra, doing everything from helping people get answers on financial questions to facilitating brand-new, collaborative initiatives between non-profits.

A particularly unique connection was between Connecticut Hospice in Branford and Shoreline Arts Alliance (SAA) and the Guilford Art Center (GAC). With many artists unable to hold shows or looking to find ways to put their own art out virtually, Petra said that the SAA and GAC offered to connect those people with the hospice for virtual art therapy programming, something that could be particularly important for hospice patients during such a stressful time.

Leaders of other non-profits, including the Guilford Center for Children, Guilford Youth Mentoring, and VNA Community Healthcare and Hospice, among others have told the Courier that participating in these conference calls has been invaluable.

Another semi-independent aspect of the foundation’s work that is continuing during the pandemic is the Youth Advisory Group (YAG), a board of Guilford High School students that administers two grants for the foundation, according to YAG President Ella Stanley.

Despite school being closed, YAG has continued to meet virtually, according to Stanley, and last month administered a $4,500 grant that paid for “health kits”—hand sanitizer, paper towels, disposable gloves, and disinfectant wipes—that went out to local families.

Like the foundation, YAG is adapting to the new circumstances, Stanley said, reaching out to organizations that were given grants for initiatives or events that are no longer viable.

“I think that’s been the major challenge, coordinating with some of these groups,” Stanley said. “And how they’re going to shift their money and shift what they need and shift what they’re doing.”

Stanley herself has held an annual interactive event on the green to raise awareness of homelessness called The Big Sleep Out, which is funded by a YAG grant. She said she is currently working to adapt that in some way to happen virtually, and continue those same efforts in this new environment.

“There’s been a lot more problems solving,” Stanley said. “We’re just taking it as it comes.”

For more information or to donate to the Guilford Foundation Covid-19 Response Fund, visit www.guilfordfoundation.org.


Jesse Williams covers Guilford and Madison for Zip06. Email Jesse at j.williams@shorepublishing.com.

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