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United Way is in the business of helping others, so a new UW fund benefits its neighbors.

An emergency fund set up to help Franklin County nonprofits provide unmet needs to residents during the COVID-19 pandemic has released $46,882 in grants to 13 programs.

“This is the work United Way was built for. We are here to mobilize the community to help our neighbors,” said local United way Executive Director Amy Hicks.

The coronavirus pandemic and financial crisis has overburdened many non-profits trying to meet the needs of a community in crisis.

“Now, as we face COVID-19 together, many nonprofits are incredibly overburdened serving the growing number of people who need their services,” she said. “We know response must be strong and immediate.”

United Way of Franklin County put a Community Crisis Response & Recovery Fund in place in late March.

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So far, 215 individuals and businesses have contributed to the crisis fund, raising a total of $84,165.

Between generous funders, courageous nonprofits, and dedicated community partners, local families are getting the help they need, Hicks said. That includes critical resources and services like food, personal protective equipment, shelter, and more.

Feeding the hungry

One of the greatest, most immediate needs arising from this crisis is for food, Hicks said. According to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank (CPFB), approximately 1 in 10 central Pennsylvanians struggle with hunger in typical times.

Now, with businesses closed to prevent spread of COVID-19 and skyrocketing unemployment, more people are struggling with food insecurity.

The need in Franklin County increased 23% from February 2020 to March 2020 alone, according to CPFB. The central food bank distributed 48% more food in April 2020 than in April 2019.

CPFB received emergency funds from United Way of Franklin County to pack and distribute 312 food boxes to local agencies, at no cost to the agencies. These boxes will feed 937 food insecure Franklin County residents for half a week.

Local organizations, such as Waynesboro Community & Human Services (WCHS), are also noticing the spike in food insecurity.

“We’ve seen the number of families participating in our food programs increase dramatically,” WCHS Executive Director Denise Esser said. “Our backpack program has doubled in size, and we’re serving 50% more people through our pantry.”

To meet the increased need while complying with social distancing and health guidelines, organizations providing food had to adapt quickly and think of creative solutions for distribution. they have moved to online ordering, curbside pick-up, and home delivery.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure no one in our community goes hungry,” said Esser.

Read: TFEC and United Way to Fund Support for COVID-19 Community Needs

Pandemic crisis means adapting

Adapting and increasing services in response to the pandemic requires more resources. That’s why the Community Crisis Response & Recovery Fund exists. For organizations providing food, like WCHS, receiving the grant means they can feed more people and serve them safely. WCHS feeds an estimated 635 families through both of their food programs with UW funding. That covers the approximate increase in need they have seen.

While food is one of the greatest immediate needs, the crisis fund supports a variety of COVID-19 relief efforts.

Grants help purchase personal protective equipment for staff and clients, enable crucial therapy sessions to continue through tele-health, or ensure families can remain in their home after loss of income.

A list of organizations receiving grants and summaries of how emergency funds are being used through their program, can be found here.

These grants would not be possible without contributions from community.

“The way our community has come together so quickly to support one another is nothing short of inspiring,” Hicks said.

Calling donor generosity “amazing,” she said even more will be asked of the community as the pandemic stretches on.

Impacting the community

“This crisis will impact our community for a long time,” she said.

United Way will keep supporting critical programs as long as there are funds to do so, she said.

Community members and businesses can donate to the fund here, or mail a check to United Way of Franklin County, 182 S. Second St., Chambersburg, PA 17201.

Those wishing to lend a hand to community in other ways can find a variety of item donation and volunteer needs from local organizations here.

UW grants for local organizations supporting impacted families in the community will continue as long as funds are available and the need exists in the wake of the pandemic crisis.

Nonprofit organizations serving Franklin County residents may request an application by emailing [email protected]

United Way’s website is also home to the Franklin County COVID-19 Resources Hub, which includes information and resources about where to get help if you are in need of assistance. Visit the hub here for additional information.

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