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Alternative Transit Relief Fund: A new grant program to help nonprofits affected by I-85 bridge fire and collapse

©2016 Decisive Moment Event Photojournalism, Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta Headshots

By Erin Dreiling, marketing and communications manager, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Since the bridge collapsed on I-85, my commute has been 10 minutes longer even though I live on the south side of Atlanta. Each day, my coworkers share travel horror stories around the water cooler about grueling trips to Buckhead for meetings that take an hour and attempts to get to Roswell that end in frustrated banging of the steering wheel. We are lucky that we work for an understanding organization. But what about those that are not in that situation?

For some, this issue is not about inconvenience or funny memes on Facebook. Perhaps they are docked pay for being tardy, no matter the reason, or are paid hourly. Maybe they were already traveling an hour to get to work and now they are faced with double that – complicating second jobs, child care and responsibilities. In short, complicating life.

To purchase a monthly transit pass for April, May and June at $95, it will be $285. It’s harder to measure gas costs for other commuters who will sit in extra traffic or face a longer route to work. But let’s say that the I-85 collapse will cost the average commuter $300. For some, that $300 might as well be $3,000 or $300,000. For households living paycheck to paycheck that are already facing adversity, it’s almost insurmountable.

That’s why I am especially proud of my organization today. The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta is announcing a new, short-term grant program in partnership with our generous donors called the Alternative Transit Relief Fund to help nonprofits offset the impact of the I-85 bridge collapse for their staff, volunteers and constituents.

The day after the I-85 collapse, one of our team members corresponded with Matt Pieper, executive director of Open Hand. His response captures the spirit of why I think nonprofits are the lifeblood of our region, especially when facing a crisis like this. Located less than a block away from the site of the fire, Open Hand provides meals to over 1,000 people living with HIV/AIDS.

“Thus far, we are navigating the challenges,” Pieper said. “Despite the bridge collapse being SO close to our campus, our neighborhood was not completely cut off and staff/volunteers can get in and out. All meals went out on time today and we do not anticipate that any of our clients will go without today.”

Nonprofits may apply for up to $1,000 to use as they see fit to help those hit hardest. Maybe it will be MARTA cards for working parents. Or gas money for volunteers that carpool. The Alternative Transit Relief Fund will not solve tomorrow’s regional transportation problems. But today it will help those that need it. Today it will make things easier.

Nonprofits can learn more, review eligibility criteria and find instructions to apply for a grant on our blog here.



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