COVID-19 Response Fund for the Pioneer Valley awards $700K in initial grants; Community Foundation has raised $2.48M

SPRINGFIELD — Focusing on the needs of the elderly, poor, sick, hungry and homeless, The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts awarded $700,000 in initial grants Friday to nonprofits from the COVID-19 Response Fund for the Pioneer Valley.

And while they knew there’d be an impact from the coronavirus pandemic and statewide lockdown implemented to stop its spread, recipient charities in Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties are only just beginning to learn the form and extent of those challenges.

“We know we’ve incurred costs, but we don’t have a total and we can imagine there are more expenses to come,” said Geoffrey Oldmixon, associate vice president of marketing and development for Friends of the Homeless. Clinical & Support Options.

Friends of the Homeless, which has a shelter on Worthington Street in Springfield, knows the homeless population is susceptible not just to COVID-19, but the economic turmoil in its wake.

“We haven’t had volunteers at our facility,” Oldmixon said. “So replacing that with paid staff is costly. We’ve had expenses about cleaning, sanitizing. “I will say we are very appreciative of the quick-moving response that our community has shown.”

Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno has announced a contingency plan where the city will establish three tents for the homeless to access across from the Friends of the Homeless Center on Worthington Street. There, the medical needs of the homeless that might be affected by coronavirus can be addressed.

Friends of the Homeless was just one of the agencies to benefit from the first round of grants from the COVID-19 Response Fund for the Pioneer Valley.

The Community Foundation announced it has raised $2.48 million from local philanthropic and business organizations, as well as 50 individuals.

On March 18, MassMutual donated $1 million to the fund. Other donors include:

  • bankESB
  • Berkshire Bank
  • Beveridge Family Foundation
  • BIG Y
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
  • Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts
  • Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation
  • Dietz & Co. Architects
  • Greenfield Cooperative Bank/Northampton Cooperative Bank
  • Keady, Foard, Montemagni, UBS Wealth Management
  • MassMutual
  • PeoplesBank
  • TD Charitable Foundation
  • Westfield Bank

The first-round of grants totaling $700,000 were broken down by the COVID-19 Response Fund for the Pioneer Valley into five categories:

  • $190,000 to distribute food through the region’s system of food pantries
  • $120,000 to address the needs of vulnerable elders, including home-delivered meals
  • $120,000 to provide critical health services and outreach through the valley’s federally-designated Community Health Centers
  • $150,000 to provide shelter for those without homes and those impacted by domestic violence
  • $120,000 to provide flexible supports to the region’s lowest income families and individuals

Donations may be made online at or by mail to The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, 333 Bridge St., Springfield, MA 01103

Organizations receiving funding in the first round included:

  • Caring Health Center
  • Catholic Charities Agency- Diocese of Springfield
  • Center for Human Development
  • Community Action Pioneer Valley
  • Community Health Center of Franklin County
  • Food Bank of Western Massachusetts
  • Friends of the Homeless, Clinical & Support Options
  • Greater Springfield Senior Services
  • Highland Valley Elder Services
  • Hilltown Community Health Center
  • Holyoke Health Center
  • LifePath
  • New England Learning Center for Women in Transition (NELCWIT)
  • Safe Passage
  • ServiceNet
  • Springfield Partners for Community Action
  • Springfield Rescue Mission
  • Valley Opportunity Council
  • WestMass ElderCare
  • Womanshelter Companeras
  • YWCA of Western Massachusetts

ServiceNet received $30,000 from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts to help cover COVID-19 related operating expenses, said Amy Timmins, vice president of community relations for the organization. (ServiceNet helps people struggling with mental illness, developmental disability, traumatic brain injury, homelessness, substance abuse.)

These new expenses include staffing, housing related needs, technology, supplies, and other expenses as they arise.

Andrew Morehouse, executive director of The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, said demand for food has already gone up by 12% and the pantries and meal centers his bank serves are only now starting to see the impact of job cuts in their communities.

The Food Bank received $190,000 from the COVID-19 Response Fund, he said. Of that $30,000 is allocated to the Food Bank itself for its additional operating expenses, that’s the cost of getting food out to 174 programs in the three counties.

The bulk of the money, $160,000, passes through the Food Bank and goes to local feeding programs themselves based on Centers for Disease Control Data on how hard hit their communities are.

The Food Bank has already seen disruptions in the normal channels of food donations from industry, Morehouse said.

Katie Allan Zobel, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, said in a statement that more grants are expected to be announced and released next week to respond to emerging needs.

“These initial grants will support urgent and immediate needs of those most vulnerable and adversely affected by this unprecedented crisis and those who have been most impacted by inequity. Through the generosity of our community and the establishment of this response fund, we are helping those in need living in the 69 cities and towns that make up Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire Counties,” Zobel said.

How to give

Donations may be made online at or by mail to The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, 333 Bridge St., Springfield, MA 01103

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