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Five things the COVID pandemic taught me about our community

It’s hard to believe how far we’ve come in the past three years.  Although I recognize that COVID is still with us and probably will be for years to come, I think that we are all learning how to adapt to the changes that the pandemic brought about. 

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned through the COVID pandemic and our community’s response to it:

  • When a need is identified, our community rises to meet the challenge.  On March 13, 2020, when the first Alabama case of COVID was announced, we all knew that our community would need our nonprofit organizations to play a critical role in any relief efforts that would happen.  Therefore, on March 16, the Community Foundation activated our Emergency Relief Fund to provide grants to nonprofit organizations for basic needs and for health and wellness funding.  Our community quickly rallied around this fund.  Over the next several months, over 500 donors gave almost $900,000 to provide much-needed COVID relief, and our local nonprofit organizations put that money to good use.
  • Action inspires action.  One of the keys to the success of the Community Foundation’s Emergency Relief Fund is that we quickly deployed all donations right back into the community.  Money came in, and money was granted out right away.  Our Grants Committee members were the unsung heroes who carefully and quietly stewarded those community investments, meeting thirteen times between April and September.  As a result, many other donors gained confidence that their donations were being put to good use and joined the cause.
  • Innovation can still happen during a crisis.  I had a front row seat to see our incredible nonprofit community rise to meet the challenges of the pandemic.  The organizations that thrived were those who refused to sit on the sidelines but who found new ways to serve their community.  Whether that was Boys & Girls Clubs who went mobile to deliver meals and books to their Club Kids or the Heart of the Valley YMCA who leveraged their relationships with local schools to set up food distribution points or Madison City Schools whose ELL teachers started using clear plastic face masks so their students could watch their lips to aid their learning, our community’s nonprofit organizations stayed true to their mission to serve and they found new ways to do it, even in the midst of a crisis.
  • The future belongs to the bold.  For all of us, the pandemic was a time of extreme uncertainty and chaos.  There was a very real temptation to stand by and to wait for the dust to settle.  However, the nonprofit organizations that jumped into the middle of the chaos and continued to serve their clients were the organizations that weathered the storm best.  Those who chose to wait it out ended up having a much longer wait than anyone anticipated back in 2020.  Instead, the organizations who figured it out along the way were rewarded with community support and renewed confidence. 
  • The Community Foundation settled into its unique role to mobilize generosity.   During the pandemic, the Community Foundation discovered that what we do best is to mobilize generosity.  There are so many other worthy things that vie for our time and attention as an organization, but we serve our community best when we stay focused on our unique role.  During 2020, our Board completed a new strategic plan that was informed by what we learned during the pandemic.  Our mission then, as it is now, is to mobilize generosity to improve quality of life in our community.  Our commitment to our community is to remain true to our mission in good times and in bad. 

None of us want to relive 2020; however, we can learn from it.  At the Community Foundation, we are a stronger organization because of the lessons we’ve learned along the way.  I think our community is stronger too.