Partnership for Better Health Distributes $630,425 in Emergency Grants to Address COVID-19

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Partnership for Better Health distributed over $630,000 in emergency grants to local nonprofit organizations since April 1st.

“Our goal was to ensure that local nonprofits were well prepared to respond to the threat of COVID-19  and maintain essential services,” said Carol Thornton, Director of Grants & Public Policy at the Partnership. Thornton emphasized that the foundation’s yearend emergency grants were coupled with more than $1.7 million in traditional grants that the foundation already distributed this year. “We’ve made large grants to support community health services and recreational resources in the recent past, which have also been heavily tapped by community members during the current crisis.”

The new emergency grants for up to $25,000 prioritized four key issues:

  1. Ten emergency response service grants are assisting EMS, fire and rescue organizations with the purchase of essential health supplies, equipment and related supports to ensure they remain highly effective during the pandemic;
  2. Essential health service grants to 12 organizations are ensuring that primary care, mental health, substance use disorder and social-emotional services continue to operate in clean, protected or virtual settings;
  3. Grants to 23 nonprofits are meeting basic human needs, including food, shelter and rental assistance for individuals who have lost income and employment as a result of COVID-19; and
  4. Grants to seven nonprofits are supporting safe child and youth care programs during the summer months, towards helping them meet higher CDC safety guidelines during the pandemic, as many parents and guardians retain or return to work.

With a grant approval rate of 82 percent, the foundation awarded a total of 53 emergency grants.

Trish Niemitz, a retired school nurse who serves on the Partnership’s board and Community Investment Committee, helped to oversee the foundation’s grantmaking. Niemitz said that this year’s volume of grants was unprecedented. “Each funding request seemed more urgent and important than the last.” Niemitz explained that the grants went to a wide range of nonprofits, including: Community CARES; Project SHARE; Sadler Health Center and Samaritan Fellowship; plus area senior centers, and EMS, fire and rescue units serving communities in Cumberland, Perry, Franklin and Northern Adams counties. 

The foundation views the coronavirus pandemic as the greatest threat to human health that the community may see for decades. “If ever there were a time for local philanthropy to step up, it’s now,” said Gail Witwer, Director of Health Promotion at the Partnership. “We’re here in service to the community and we anticipate making a possible second round of emergency grants in the fall.”

As a community health foundation, the Partnership was formed in 2001 from the sale of the former Carlisle Hospital. Today, the foundation oversees a corpus of an estimated $43 million in unrestricted investments, plus it receives proceeds from restricted trusts that were originally bequeathed to the old Carlisle Hospital.

Chris Farrands, the Partnership’s board treasurer and a local CPA, described the foundation as a driving source of philanthropic giving in the community. Farrands pointed out, “Over the past 20 years, the foundation has distributed more than $40 million in grants to the region, while maintaining its corpus of investments to ensure future giving.” He attributed this success to careful financial stewardship and strong stock market performance over time.

Farrands also acknowledged, “The Partnership is anticipating some financially lean years ahead. But like several leading national foundations, we secured a low-interest line of credit that guarantees our ability to keep pace with community grants during the pandemic, without eroding the corpus of investments.” The Partnership for Better Health is charged with existing in perpetuity to support the long-term health of the community.

For a complete summary of distributed Emergency Grants click here.