I remember it like it was yesterday: Thursday, March 12th. Covid-19 had just started dominating the headlines, and as a precaution, we decided to close the office for two weeks. Little did we know that two weeks would turn into five months. Beginning in July, following very strict policies on covid-19 safety and health practices, we slowly returned to the office. By the middle of August, our full team was back at 50 Eisenhower Drive.
But it wasn’t business as usual by any means.
One of my primary concerns was our community. People rely on the funds Federation distributes every year. I knew that needs were going to continue to grow exponentially, and I was anxious. How was this enormous disruption going to affect our ability to support our community members in need?
Unfortunately, like many other companies and organizations, we needed to make some hard decisions. We focused on making our operations as efficient as possible so that we could direct our support on the community’s social service agencies and their response to covid-19. Doing business during the pandemic required us to do more with less, including short-term furloughs and the elimination of a few staff positions. We needed to put the needs of the community first.
So we got creative and hunkered down to figure out the best way to serve, connect, and engage our community while remaining safe and socially distant.
Our senior team had regular calls with leaders from our community agencies on the front line to determine how best to address needs as they emerged. We launched a covid-19 fundraising campaign. We pivoted our work and learned about sourcing personal protective equipment and thermal scan thermometers, along with navigating the world of the Payroll Protection Program — all so we could provide these services to our agencies, which were overwhelmed and on the front lines.
Between monies raised and reallocated, Federation distributed more than $1.3 million to our community partner agencies. This money helped fill food pantries, provide PPE, alleviate operating expenses, feed isolated seniors, help our day schools, provide mental health support and economic relief, and much more.
The next challenge was keeping the community connected and engaged during this “disconnected” time.
Federation launched a robust calendar of virtual events programming. Since March, we’ve had more than 80 virtual events with thousands of people participating. Topics were varied to engage different demographics with different interests. It wasn’t ideal — but we tried to make the best out of a difficult situation.
And lastly, how were we going to continue the volunteer work we do that so many people count on? This year, we converted all the volunteer events to at-home pop-ups so the projects could be done safely among small groups. Since March, through our pop-ups, Federation distributed more than 1,800 filled backpacks and 3,000 mitzvah projects, and plans are in motion to pack 3,000 snack packs for kids who experience weekend hunger during the winter months. The pandemic has not slowed down our ability to do mitzvot for the Jewish and broader community.
Over the last few months, I experienced a complete range of emotions. At times I was anxious, concerned, frustrated, and nervous. I worried that we were going to let people down. But in the end, as the year drew to an end, my overwhelming feelings are gratitude and hope.
Gratitude for front line workers who have made significant sacrifices for others.
Gratitude for the community agencies and staff who kept running under extreme conditions.
Gratitude for the resilience and fortitude of Federation’s leadership and staff.
Gratitude for the spirit and generosity of this community.
Gratitude for YOU.
As we close out this year, let us hope that the future brings an end to the pandemic, an opportunity to gather in person, and the much-needed healing for families who have been devastated by this awful disease.
Together, we have faced unprecedented challenges. And unfortunately, these challenges aren’t over.
No matter what challenges we face, our community will come together, support each other, and find the resilience and fortitude to overcome obstacles and find strength in each other.
I wish you all a happy New Year. Join me in cautiously welcoming 2021 as a year of hope and optimism filled with peace, health, and better times.