A window display at Lucid earlier this year, with paintings by Andrea Thomas. (News Bulletin file photo)

A window display at Lucid earlier this year, with paintings by Andrea Thomas. (News Bulletin file photo)

Nanaimo Foundation offers thanks for nearly $700,000 in COVID-19 relief

Local fundraising and federal money supported Nanaimo Community Response Fund in 2020

The Nanaimo Foundation was quick to co-ordinate an emergency fundraising response to the pandemic, but they couldn’t have done it without a major community effort.

The foundation issued a press release the week of Christmas to look back on the year that was and present a final tally for 2020 of $695,000 to support more than 40 local organizations. That sum includes $167,000 in federal contributions from the Emergency Community Support Fund via the United Way and the Canadian Red Cross, but more than $491,000 was raised locally over the past nine months.

The Nanaimo Foundation created the Nanaimo Community Response Fund in March and according to the release, thousands of local donors, businesses and community partners responded to “critical needs” in the area and helping those who were “disproportionately affected” by the pandemic.

“Nanaimo, we are awe-inspired in how you have helped your vulnerable neighbours this year,” said Laurie Bienert, Nanaimo Foundation executive director, in the release. “We are proud, as the local community foundation, to have worked beside you in responding to this crisis.”

Money has been handed out on a rolling basis since the community response fund was created, says the Nanaimo Foundation.

The year’s biggest single fundraiser was the Rock for Relief benefit concert, a partnership between the Nanaimo Foundation, the Victoria Foundation and Chek TV. Musicians including Nanaimo’s Lauren Spencer-Smith performed remotely and people on the Island contributed $195,000 for COVID-19 relief efforts north of the Malahat.

The Tom Harris Community Foundation donated $50,000 to help get the Nanaimo Community Response Fund started, Island Savings contributed $10,000 and Western Stevedoring, the Johnston Family Fund and the Dreger-Martinez Charity Fund were other donors mentioned in the release.

Nanaimo artist Andrea Thomas’s charitable efforts early in the pandemic were another fundraising success story. She donated 12 original paintings to be auctioned off with all proceeds to be donated to the community response fund, and the sales amounted to more than $14,000.

The Rotary Club of Nanaimo was able to pass along $6,300 from a fundraiser in May, on the 100th anniversary of Rotary in Nanaimo. The club’s president-elect Bob Janes ran 100 laps of the 400-metre track at Rotary Bowl stadium and Rotarians, friends and supporters were generous with their pledges.

The Nanaimo Foundation noted every donation received, whether $3 or $30,000, was appreciated.

“The stories of the people who have come forward to help and the hard work of local organizations and volunteers show the power of a community when it comes together,” noted the release.”

The Nanaimo Foundation notes that $250,000 from the community response fund has gone toward efforts to combat food insecurity, “identified as a key priority area” early in the pandemic. Some of the funding recipients have been the Nanaimo-Ladysmith Schools Foundation, the 7-10 Club, Wisteria Community Association, Nanaimo Youth Services Association and Tillicum Lelum Aboriginal Friendship Society.

Housing and shelter needs have also been addressed, as COVID-19 closures and public health orders have created challenges. Support for Samaritan House enabled that service provider to relocate and expand into emergency shelter provision.

Donations to the Nanaimo Community Response Fund have also vulnerable seniors, as well, during a time of isolation. The Nanaimo Brain Injury Society has been supported by the fund as it has transitioned its hospital peer support program online with the purchase of iPads.

“Donations to the community response fund will continue to assist our vulnerable seniors, youth and families with the ongoing challenges they are facing due to COVID-19,” the release summed up.

For more information about the Nanaimo Community Response Fund and the grants it has provided, visit www.nanaimofoundation.com/communityresponsefund.


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