When Hurricane Irma struck Palm Beach County, area funders stepped forward in a coordinated effort to help local nonprofits support our community. To date, the funders have provided more than $700,000 to 60-plus organizations – covering the cost of everything from roof repairs to mental health services.
In anticipation of Irma and future disasters, the group of seven funders created a coordinated application and funding process to streamline assistance to local nonprofits. Through this process, nonprofits could apply using a simple, online application. The group of funders then reviewed the application and collaborated to fulfill as many emergency requests as possible.
Those funders included:
The emergency disaster funding allowed local nonprofits to help struggling Palm Beach County residents cover costs for food, supplies, housing, counseling and general support services – even as some of those agencies were dealing with the impact of the storm on their own staff and facilities.
For example, emergency disaster funding helped Caridad Center, a medical clinic west of Boynton Beach that cares for the uninsured. Hurricane Irma destroyed an electrical line that powered Caridad Center's lift station, which caused every toilet in the clinic to overflow. The center had to hire a cleaning service, and remove and replace two feet of drywall throughout the clinic to eliminate the sewage smell. At one point, the center rented portable bathrooms so it could open for a few hours to give patients much-needed medications. Total cost: $19,000.
After Hurricane Irma, the Feed the Hungry Pantry in West Palm Beach was inundated with requests for food and water from residents who’d lost their power – and all of their food. Because of the storm, food donations were scarce so Feed the Hungryhad to buy $20,000 worth of food and water for the more than 1,750 families it feeds during the month.
211 Helpline’s phones lit up before and after Hurricane Irma as Palm Beach County residents scrambled for help. Typically, 211’s phone bank handles 200-300 calls/contacts a day. Right before Irma, the number shot up – even reaching 1,000 calls/contacts in one day. Staff worked overtime to handle the need. After Irma, 211 lost power and had to forward calls to a sister crisis line in New Jersey, which cost about $5,000. Moreover, 211’s building suffered damage from the storm and needed repairs. In all, 211 needed almost $15,000 to cover its costs.
The group of seven funders continues to meet and discuss how to handle future emergency requests from nonprofits in the most effective, efficient way possible.
Shana Cooper, Public Information Officer
Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County
Corrie Keller, Senior Director of Marketing & Communications
Community Foundation of Palm Beach and Martin Counties
Kerry Jamieson, Senior Director of Communications
Lexi Savage, Vice President, Marketing & Brand Management
United Way of Palm Beach County