Park City’s nonprofits continue to offer assistance through COVID-19 challenges
Organizations are looking to the future
The Park City Community Foundation has distributed more than $3 million in Community Response Fund grants to help Summit County residents who have been impacted by COVID-19.
The organization that helps other nonprofits carry out their missions hit that milestone in February when it dispersed a new round of funding totaling $500,000 to 16 local nonprofits, said Community Impact Director Diego Zegarra.
“The bevy of nonprofits we have in Summit County truly stepped up to help, and although we were a key fundraiser, it is really their work and efforts and the relationships they hold with those communities that made it possible for the dollars to be effectively placed and efficiently distributed for their clients needs to be met,” Zegarra said.
That said, Zegarra noted that there are still people in the community who continue to worry about getting by.
“This is true with our immigrant communities, who have not had access to state or federal benefits or stimulus checks,” he said. “They are falling behind, and we are working closely with partners to address some of those needs.”
The $3 million was distributed through Urgent Needs Grants and Stabilization Phase Grants.
The Urgent Needs Grants, which are ongoing, are rapid-response, unrestricted grants that address the economic impact of reduced and lost work due to the pandemic, Zegarra said.
“They go to the immediate needs of economically vulnerable populations caused by COVID-19-related closures,” he said. “The core has always been these urgent needs. Our main goal was to help those whose basic needs — housing, food security, health care — were disproportionately impacted by loss of employment or loss of hours due to the pandemic.”
In 2018, the Park City Community Foundation partnered with Park City and started a social-equity program that helped the nonprofit better understand what the needs in the community were, Zegarra said. That knowledge has been crucial during the pandemic.
“One of the tenets of this work was to center on voices of those who are experiencing the very disparities we sought to address, because who might be better informed as to how to meet that need,” he said. “That has been a driving force for our efforts in deploying the funds, and through that, our programs are better. Our initiatives are higher quality and we invest our dollars in a way that delivers greater impact.”
A large part of the grants issued by the foundation was also made possible by the $1 million in federal coronavirus relief funds that the Summit County Council entrusted to the nonprofit in December, according to Zegarra.
“The county partnered with us and allowed for more urgent needs — housing assistance, food security, child care or mental wellness services — to be met,” he said.
The Stabilization Phase Grants, which are matching grants, were dispersed early during the pandemic to 28 nonprofits to help offset the economic impacts of COVID-19, according to Zegarra.
“It’s the Park City Community Foundation’s job to support all nonprofits in Summit County,” he said. “So when a lot of organizations were hurting, there were opportunities for us to (assure) that their services were offered in a seamless manner.”
The Christian Center of Park City, Jewish Family Service, Peace House and People’s Health Clinic were among the nonprofits, to name a few.
Over the past year, the Christian Center has increased its primary outreach and services — basic-needs assistance, mental-health counseling and its food pantry — said Executive Director Rob Harter.
From March 27 through Dec. 31, the nonprofit distributed more than $1.3 million of basic-needs assistance, he said.
“Basic needs is primarily rent assistance, but we’ve also helped with utilities, gasoline vouchers and medical bills related to COVID,” he said. “Sadly the Latinx community has been hit disproportionately by the pandemic.”
The biggest chunk of basic needs requests was rent assistance, Harter said.
“More than 1,400 people from Wasatch and Summit counties applied,” he said.
In addition to monetary help, the Christian Center’s food pantries remained busy.
“At one time we were serving 1,000 people a week,” Harter said. “Ironically one of our biggest recipients is international students, but they didn’t come this year because of pandemic restrictions. We served a total of 15,000 households in Park City and Heber.”
The Christian Center also helped provide more than 750 local students with back-to-school supplies, and its Operation Hope Christmas gift program served more than 2,100 kids in Wasatch and Summit counties and on the Goshute Reservation, Harter said.
The nonprofit also stepped up its mental health services, and was able to use the grants to increase counseling staff and provide scholarships, he said.
“One of the biggest after-effects is the exponential increase of mental health needs across the board,” he said. “People lost their jobs and created uncertainty and anxiety, and the isolation made matters worse.”
In addition to the grants from the Park City Community Foundation, the Christian Center also received donations from other programs and members of the community, Harter said.
“We had a tremendous response, and people stepped up with donations from $20 to $20,000,” he said. “We took in $1.3 million and gave out $1.3 million just for basic needs.”
Jewish Family Service, meanwhile, has given out $1.2 million since April 1, said Executive Director Ellen Silver.
“The money went mostly to Summit County, but we also helped people in the Salt Lake Valley as well,” she said. “We are so glad we were in the position to help, thanks to the Park City Community Foundation and other generous community donors.”
Like the Christian Center, Jewish Family Service kicked up its mental health services, and increased its safety-net and basic-needs programming, according to Silver.
“We’ve offered affordable mental health services in Park City for a number of years, and this year, clearly, aside from making sure people’s emotional needs were met, we knew we had to make sure people’s basic needs were met as well,” she said. “There was a huge focus to make sure people still had roofs over their heads during this pandemic in spite of the lost jobs or the significant loss of work hours.”
While the nonprofit continues to help with basic needs, Silver said she is also looking towards the future.
“We’ve talked about how we can partner with other organizations to do other things as society starts to open up,” she said. “We would want to make sure we have some sort of structural, organized way to help people get reemployed, whether that would be through a job fair or some kind of vocational event.”
In the meanwhile, Jewish Family Service is still in need of donations, Silver said.
“We’ve been able to meet this great need so far thanks to granters and donors, and nearly 2,700 checks have gone out the door,” she said. “For the most part, landlords have worked well with us, and the eviction moratorium has helped. But we do know we may run out of money by June.”
Still, Silver has noticed some of the people the nonprofit has helped have started working again, and don’t need as much assistance.
“They have told us that while they may still need a little help, they don’t need as much as we have given them in the past,” she said. “We also recently received a check from someone we had helped back last fall. He said he’s back to work and doing OK, and would like to make a donation.”
Zegarra said the Park City Community Foundation will remain vigilant in the upcoming months.
“We are hopeful for vaccine distribution as well as a lower rate of transmission in the community, but the one thing I believe we will carry with us is how visible the needs of the community are and how disparate they are,” he said. “It’s not like we didn’t know before, it’s just the pandemic has exacerbated those needs and further highlighted the disparities. We can’t look away now.”
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The CDC recommends vaccinated people wear masks in indoor public settings in Summit County, a step backward precipitated by the rise in cases tied to the more-transmissible Delta variant.