CFZH awards nearly $450,000 in grants to meet increased need for services

As the greater Holland/Zeeland area continues to navigate the deep challenges created or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, local philanthropy is playing a unique and valuable role in setting the stage for recovery. 

The Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area (CFHZ) established the COVID-19 Community Stabilization Fund and committed $200,000 from the Community’s Endowment to assist local organizations as they respond to increased service demand and new protocols with service delivery. 

Generous individuals, families, and corporations also contributed to the Community Stabilization Fund, allowing CFHZ to distribute more than $1 million during the past six months to local nonprofits serving vulnerable populations.

‘Meaningful impact’

The Community Foundation is pleased to announce a series of recent grants from the Community Stabilization Fund, targeting three areas of prioritized investment: 
Financial stability — preventing people from slipping into poverty and basic needs supports. 
Mental health — scaling up existing mental health and substance abuse providers to be able to serve more people and reach different audiences.
Education — providing extra resources to support those students who are likely to fall the furthest behind on their educational journeys as our model for learning is being forced to adapt in real-time.

“We are incredibly grateful for the contributions of generous local donors to the Community Stabilization Fund. Their trust in our ability to steward these resources to help the Holland/Zeeland area thrive has allowed CFHZ to make a meaningful impact in all three areas of prioritized investment,” says Vice President of Community Impact Elizabeth Kidd. “Our community has acute needs right now, unlike anything we’ve seen before. For CFHZ, this has been a time to lean deeply into our mission to respond to those needs today and tomorrow, while also keeping an eye toward the future and addressing the long-term implications of this pandemic on our community.”

Financial stability

The foundation awarded $236,000 to the following organizations to prevent people from slipping into poverty and provide basic needs supports.
  • Community Action House, to increase resource navigation capacity through additional staff and case management tools.
  • Harvest Stand Ministries, to support food assistance efforts and a creative partnership to bring a micro-pantry model to four local churches.
  • Holland Rescue Mission, to help fill the food pantry.
  • Kids’ Food Basket — Holland, to support the sack supper program for local students.
  • Resilience: Advocates for Ending Violence, to help ensure safe and stable housing solutions for victims of domestic violence.
  • St. John’s Episcopal Church, in support of the Immigrant Relief Fund, which provides flexible funds to those who did not, and will not, receive federal aid.
  • Lighthouse Immigrant Advocates, for remote renewal services to help individuals remain legally eligible to work by renewing their immigration status.
  • Salvation Army — Holland, to expand the rental assistance program.
  • Hand2Hand, to provide backpack meals for students to take home over the weekend.
  • Nestlings Diaper Bank, to support monthly diaper distributions to community partners.
  • Feeding America West Michigan, to support mobile food pantries, which are a low-barrier way for people in need to access assistance.
  • Ottawa County Department of Health and Human Services, to help provide cribs, mattresses, and bedding to the individuals they serve.
  • Zeeland Neighborhood Connections in partnership with Solid Rock Ministries, to provide winterizing/home repairs for neighbors in need.
The Bridge Youth Center in Zeeland is expanding its mentoring program thanks to a grant from the CFHZ.

Education
  • The foundation awarded $150,000 to the following agencies to help mitigate the education opportunity gap:
  • Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Holland, to increase support for remote learners by adding staff capacity and including daytime hours for youth who are attending school virtually.
  • Bridge Youth Center, to expand the Bridge to Excellence mentoring program to accommodate a larger cross-section of the educational community, including students attending school remotely.
  • Escape Ministries, to hire additional staff and expand staff hours to increase the capacity of the Alternative Suspension Accountability Program and After School Tutoring program to serve vulnerable students.
  • Hope College Education Department in partnership with Ottawa Area Intermediate School District, to launch a bilingual tutoring program to meet the unique needs of remote English Language Learner students.
  • Step Up, to adapt the 1:1 mentoring program for local middle school students to a virtual format.

“Since the outset of the COVID shutdown in March, the Bridge Youth Center has done our best to meet the needs of students and families in this ever-changing time,” says Jed Mulder, Executive Director. The grant from the Stabilization Fund assisted The Bridge as they pivoted their services to support the Zeeland community in meaningful ways in early 2020, as schools moved to a virtual learning format.

The Bridge partnered with Zeeland Public Schools to become a food distribution facility, providing more than 198,500 meals to 22,000 children in the Zeeland area. When schools resumed in-person learning, they provided after-school tutoring, cooking instruction, art therapy, crucial social interaction, and mental health supports. They also opened their doors during the day to students who had chosen to continue remote learning and were lacking reliable internet and/or adult assistance at home, using the grant from the Stabilization Fund to expand their staffing and equip their facility to meet these needs. 

“Our focus remains to provide a place where all kids are safe, loved and valued, and surrounded by caring community members who introduce them to Christ’s love in all we do,” Mulder says.

Mental health
  • The foundation awarded $62,000 to the following agencies to increase access to, and capacity for, mental health and substance abuse services: 
  • Children’s Advocacy Center, to expand the counseling program capacity to address the current waitlist for services.
  • Resthaven, to bring iN2L (It’s Never Too Late) programming to residents in assisted living. This person-centered engagement program uses technology to enhance social interaction and promote mental health while still observing social distancing protocols.
  • Arbor Circle, to increase access to mental health and substance abuse services for Hispanic and Latinx community members, who often face language and cultural barriers to accessing services.
  • Maple Avenue Ministries, to provide the capacity to offer accessible, culturally-competent mental health services for Black community members.
  • Momentum Center, for the Ottawa County Suicide Prevention Coalition mental health/suicide prevention postcard mailing.

One of the impacts of COVID-19 was a delay in both criminal and family court hearings. “Our current clients were waiting longer for court dates, which in turn meant they needed a higher level of care over a longer period of time,” says Darcy Fluharty, Executive Director of the Ed and Nancy Hanenburg Children’s Advocacy Center. “This impacted new clients, as we had no option but to place them on a waitlist until we could increase the capacity of our counseling team. At any given time this year, we had eight to 18 children on the waitlist. We knew it was vital to meet their needs quickly, as long waits for services tend to decrease the chances of the individual engaging in counseling once it becomes available.”

Expanding counseling team 

Funding from the Stabilization Fund helped address this issue, allowing CAC to expand its counseling team by increasing the hours of current contract therapists and moving clients off the waitlist. Timely care for victims of childhood sexual abuse is crucial to supporting these individuals as they heal and mitigating the long-term impacts of the abuse they suffered. 

“We are thankful to the Community Foundation for prioritizing our work through a grant from the Community Stabilization Fund,” says Fluharty. “It’s a relief for our staff and our clients to expand our capacity and meet the demand for evidence-based mental health treatment and support.”

While the Community Stabilization Fund was designed as a short-term, six-month recovery effort, many in West Michigan are still experiencing heightened levels of instability and hardships. In response, the Community Foundation will continue to distribute grant funding to all three priority areas (financial stability, mental health, education) in 2021. A fourth priority area, public health, is also being considered for funding opportunities. 

“The impacts and ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have not let up, and neither will CFHZ,” says Director of Community Impact Yah-Hanna Jenkins Leys. “Now is the time for the philanthropic sector to fulfill its valuable role in directing resources to vulnerable populations in order to ensure the overall strength and resiliency of our community.”

More information about these grants, and the Community Stabilization Fund, can be found at cfhz.org/stabilizationfund.

Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.

Shandra Martinez is the managing editor of The Lakeshore WM.
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