Donors quick to help Lake County COVID-19 Community Response Fund

Lake County businesses and individuals have answered a call for emergency help nearly as quickly as the spread of the virus prompting the need.

On Wednesday night, $93,242 was electronically transferred into the accounts of eight nonprofits by the The United Way of Lake County, which started the COVID-19 Community Response Fund less than two weeks ago.

The grants were disbursed to organizations providing emergency food and shelter, which is the most urgent initial need during the coronavirus crisis, said Lori Nerheim, vice president of marketing and communications.

"We have a number of companies that have stepped up and we're at about 200 individual contributions already," she said. "The idea behind the fund was to be able to dispense the money quickly."

The recipients are:

• A Safe Place. Emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence and their families.

• Catholic Charities. Helps families stay in their homes or find secure housing.

• Hanul Family Alliance. Delivers meals to seniors.

• Mano a Mano Family Resource Center. Assists with food, rent and utilities for those in dire need and not eligible for existing programs and benefits.

• Nicasa. Food for adults in transitional housing.

• Northern Illinois Food Bank

• PADS Lake County. Overnight housing and food for homeless.

• Roberti Community House. Food for at-risk individuals and first responders.

Kristi Long, United Way president and CEO, said the fund was created to allot resources quickly to local, vetted nonprofit human services organizations which are addressing the greatest needs now.

"It's a godsend," said Brigid Murphy, communications chief for Catholic Charities. The financial implications of the pandemic likely will impact future charitable giving, Murphy said.

"All these nonprofits are dealing with the same uncertainties," she said.

Nerheim said local nonprofit organizations requested more than $160,000 for the first grant cycle, and more disbursements are planned. About $275,000 had been pledged to the Community Response Fund as of Thursday morning.

Grant priorities were determined by United Way's Lake County 211 referral hotline program. The service also has a text feature and website that offer 24-hour personal help for multiple issues.

Since it launched Sept. 24, there have been 2,958 calls and texts to 211, with 693 of those in March, according to Nerheim.

"Food requests have been dramatically increasing. Rent and utility assistance are significantly up," she said.

The service itself is adapting by making it easier to find community information and resources quickly, including volunteer options, such as grocery home delivery and others.

"There are a range of opportunities here and we'll continue to update them," Nerheim said.

Mana A Mano in Round Lake Park is among the Lake County nonprofits that are receiving assistance through the United Way of Lake County's COVID-19 Community Response Fund. The agency assists those in need afford food, rent and utilities. Daily Herald File Photo, 2017
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