Doctors. Nurses. Police. Firefighters. EMTs.
The frontline heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic inspired us all this year, and rightly received an outpouring of attention and gratitude.
But over these long months, we’ve all witnessed heroism in many other forms. Teachers. Supermarket cashiers. Delivery drivers. Journalists. And…
We at The Munshine Group are privileged to partner with nonprofits across many sectors, and we’re in awe of the ingenuity, determination and just plain grit we’ve seen in action as organizations responded to the growing needs of those they serve – even as they struggled with canceled events and volunteer programs, and with raising money in the face of unprecedented challenges. Here are just three of the examples that have motivated so many.
nourish.NJ, headquartered in Morristown, has been serving neighbors in need since 1984, providing support including food, housing, health and employment services. When the pandemic first gripped New Jersey in March, nourish.NJ knew people were going hungry, getting sick, losing jobs and at risk of being evicted.
“We’re seeing a 30% increase in demand for food and services since the start of COVID,” says nourish.NJ Executive Director Terry Connolly, who adds, “we’re anticipating that will increase even more during the winter months and once the eviction moratorium is lifted.” As tough as that reality is, Terry says nourish.NJ, its clients and its supporters are even tougher.
“Our community of supporters has been there for us every time we needed them, and their generosity has held true throughout the pandemic. Realizing that the people we serve are some of the most vulnerable in New Jersey, our supporters quickly stepped up with financial contributions to help us purchase food, pivot to a take-out and delivery model, and transition our housing, employment and health services to a remote format. Hundreds of people made masks for our staff and guests when PPE was unavailable, and local restaurants donated meals for our guests.”
Terry is deeply grateful, sharing that “we truly would not have been able to meet these urgent, growing and changing needs without the help of our community and we are incredibly thankful for their support.”
Another longtime New Jersey human services organization, Arm In Arm, works in Mercer County to fight hunger, homelessness, unemployment and poverty. There, Executive Director David Fox echoes the experiences at nourish,NJ. He tells us, “Arm In Arm is serving a record number of neighbors suffering the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing comfort to a community struggling to put food on the table and keep a roof overhead in a time of great uncertainty.” Fox says, “When the pandemic hit, our community was disproportionately affected, challenging us to be inventive in assisting those who live with the constant stress of insufficient resources, even at the best of times.
Arm In Arm immediately pivoted to keep people fed, with Fox recalling, “We changed from a nearly 100% pantry model of delivery to a 100% mobile delivery mid-March, repurposing staff and using volunteers to deliver door-to-door through scheduled ‘knock, drop and walk away’ visits.”
In February, a month before COVID-19 struck locally, Arm In Arm offered 1,995 family deliveries – nearly all via the pantry model. Months on, the organization is utilizing a hybrid system of grocery pick-up at pantries, as well as deliveries, and the monthly number of households served jumped to more than 3,100 in November.
Fox says Arm In Arm is also finding creative ways to continue delivering its employment and housing services and that, “the need for what Arm In Arm provides will continue to be great, even beyond the pandemic.”
A safe home is at the heart of the mission at Safe+Sound Somerset, which supports survivors of domestic abuse and works to end the cycle of violence. The organization has been providing services and programs since 1978. But the very step designed to keep people healthy during the pandemic – staying at home – has endangered those who are not safe within their own four walls. Family members have been increasingly isolated with their abusers.
The problem is so severe, locally and globally, the United Nations held a meeting at the end of November called “Locked Down and Locked-In.” A key speaker said, “Numerous countries have seen increases in reports of domestic violence since the pandemic began.”
Michele Boronkas, Executive Director of Safe+Sound Somerset, based in Hillsborough Township, has seen it firsthand, calling the changes “unprecedented increases in the intensity and incidence of domestic violence.” Michele tells us the organization’s 24/7 Phone and Text line “experienced a 40% increase in calls since March.” Michele says Safe+Sound Somerset has seen similar increases across the organization’s programs and services and notes, “Survivors are feeling even more desperate for safe refuge, staff are navigating caseloads of increasing complexity and the reality of reduced resources grows with each passing day.” And, as she explains, everyone at Safe+Sound Somerset did what they were called to do and “transformed from a 100% face-to-face, paper dependent, hard-wired brick and mortar infrastructure to a fully remote, electronic, and more responsive survivor-serving organization.”
Michele offers a perspective that truly resonates, reflecting that, “No one will miss 2020, but the commitment to creativity and innovation has built a new foundation that is embedded in resilience, grace and compassion as is a big welcome to 2021.”
The leadership, staff, donors and volunteers of nourish.NJ, Arm In Arm and Safe+Sound Somerset highlight the tremendous, inspirational response in 2020 seen at nonprofits across New Jersey and around the country.
As we enter 2021 with a sense of hope, but still plenty of uncertainty, one thing is sure: nonprofits – and the communities, individuals, foundations and businesses that support them – will continue to be a beacon of help and hope. We thank them all.