Contributions, large and small, essential to supporting our community through the COVID-19 outbreak
By Lita Pardi, interim vice president, community, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta
The announcement last Thursday afternoon that many of the region’s public school systems would be closed starting Monday, March 16 made residents of our region realize that the coronavirus epidemic was not something we could easily dismiss. Many of us with school-age children (I have two boys, ages five and 10) immediately began thinking about how we’d keep their education going while maintaining peace in our households. Many of us decided to go to the supermarket that night to ensure we had enough food in case the supermarkets close down or run short of supplies. As I stood in line waiting to pay, I wondered if my neighbors and extended family had also done the same. I also thought about people who don’t have the luxury of being able to work from home or stock up their pantries. And I thought of the great responsibility that the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, the place I’ve worked at for the last 16 years, has to help our community during times like this.
Research tells us that 48% of families in metro Atlanta don’t have $400 on hand in case of an emergency, and for people who work in industries without sick leave, there will be increased challenges if they have to be home from work. People who are line cooks, nurses’ aides and grocery store clerks are some of those whose jobs can’t be done remotely and that don’t typically offer paid sick days. Think of the elderly and the chronically ill who are more susceptible to the virus. We are likely to see an increase in the need for emergency assistance as people’s income will no longer be stable because of closures. Other challenges include a potential rise in evictions, food insecurity, lack of healthcare, and limited to no childcare and access to tools that support online learning for K-12 students. Studies have shown that following natural disasters, 90% of small businesses fail within a year unless they are able to reopen within five days. The COVID-19 outbreak is likely to overwhelmingly affect communities already facing health and economic disparities and exacerbate the inequities that exist in our community.
In times like these, fear and anxiety about the uncertain future can lead us to become very self-focused. While many of the temporary changes and shutdowns are disappointing, together we can limit the extent and duration of this outbreak. But it’s not just about how our actions can help flatten the curve. We have the opportunity to show our neighbors the beautiful aspects of humanity. Instead of stashing cans of food, consider donating them your local food pantry – they are working with school systems to ensure children who rely on their schools for breakfast and lunch have meals while school is not in session. Consider supporting organizations that deliver food to the homebound who may be chronically ill or elderly. The contributions don’t have to be all financial, though. Take the time to call your elderly relatives, who cannot receive visitors because of the concern over spreading the virus. Or stop by an elderly neighbor’s house and check in on them from the outside. Let us look out for each other and be generous with those who need help the most. We have within us the power to slow down and be kinder, and perhaps being forced to keep our distance physically will lead us to appreciate each other in a whole new way.
The Community Foundation continues to monitor this situation and is working with our donors and other funders to ensure that our nonprofit sector is supported in their efforts to respond, especially to those who are most vulnerable. We will provide updates on our blog and social media via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.