Key emergency funding for organizations that work with vulnerable and underserved residents, and those people who were drastically and adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, are crucial in working toward recovery. This is something the Dufferin Community Foundation recognized, creating its emergency support grants.
“Our main focus is building these long-term permanent investment funds, so that we can give out money all the time,” explained Gord Gallaugher, DCF board chair. “But COVID came up and we saw a need for more urgent funding right away.”
When the recipients for 2022 were selected, organizations that dealt with vulnerable groups were a high-priority. These included Dufferin Child and Family Services, Choices Youth Shelter, CMHA Dufferin Peel — Aging Well in Dufferin, and Community Living Dufferin.
“We listen to what’s going on in the community and then make decisions accordingly,” said MaryAnn Lowry, chair of the foundation’s grants committee. “We can give guidance to donors, because we’re tapped into so many different charities. We’re able to hear what’s going on and where the shortages are.”
Lowry added the DCF and its grants committee are very data focused — their decisions aren’t just made based on the stories and the emotions they create. The data gathered includes research not only from Statistics Canada and census data, but in reports from the local agencies, Dufferin County, the municipalities, and more.
As people slowly work toward pandemic recovery, their findings highlighted mental health, particularly for isolated seniors, as one of the major issues.
“It’s probably not a need going away in the short term,” said Lowry. “The long-term mental health effects of COVID and the disruption of people’s lives is becoming more and more of an issue.”
This extended to shelters as well, where they had to limit the number of people who could come through the doors, and crucial emergency support services may not have been available.
Challenges included a lack of beds, access to face-to-face services, and longer-than-usual wait times.
“Those hands-on approaches became hands-off approaches, which from a mental health perspective can really magnify what it is that someone is going through,” explained Erin Goodyear, executive director at Choices Youth Shelter. “That’s when you have a rise of suicidal ideation and a lot of overdoses, unfortunately.”
Job loss, rising food costs and a lack of access to food also contributed to rising homelessness across Canada.
For Choices, the funding that came from the grants will help equip them to not only assist youth in accessing the kind of assistance COVID hindered, but to pass that knowledge on and prepare for future challenges. The grant will enable staff to attend CAMH’s concurrent disorders core training.
“This funding is going to be providing us with training that’s vital to us supporting youth, even if it’s to connect them to the right resources in the community to help them with their recovery process if that’s where they’re at,” said Goodyear. “It’s invaluable because it’s an endless tool that our staff can use forever.”
The grants may seem small on the surface, with $13,000 split between the organization, but as Choices demonstrates, even a small donation can provide the money to have a big impact, especially as organizations work to rebuild and help their clients after COVID.
The DCF will continue to build the emergency grant fund for the future, and in the meantime aims to help the community grow forward and invest where things are needed the most. For now, that means continuing to learn from those who have the strongest pulse on what needs have to be met.
“We’re getting to know all of the pieces that serve those vulnerable populations and getting their feedback,” said Gallaugher. “From there, we can build a bit more of a composite picture, and to extend the ways in which we can help each other out, to think of things in a more philanthropic way.”
STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Following the announcement of the Dufferin Community Foundation’s 2022 emergency grant recipients, the Orangeville Banner wanted to find out just how much of an impact these funds, even when they’re small, will have on the vulnerable populations in Dufferin County, and how the foundation can help create an impact moving forward.
Written by; Tabitha Wells
Thursday, September 22, 2022