community relief

On Friday, March 20, United Way announced plans for the Community Relief fund, which will help small business and nonprofits during COVID-19.

The Brazos Valley COVID-19 Community Relief fund is a plan to assist community members facing financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Companies and individuals across Brazos Valley have come together to create this relief fund to provide short-term immediate assistance to existing nonprofit organizations, such as the Brazos Valley Food Bank and the Salvation Army, that work with those who need food, utilities and rent assistance. The fund will also help support several small businesses who are struggling to keep their doors open during the pandemic.

The idea came to fruition two weeks ago when Chris Field, founder and executive director of Mercy Project, thought of a joint effort that would create one, large impact on the Brazos Valley community. Field then presented the idea to Patricia Gerling, president of the Community Foundation of the Brazos Valley, and Alison Prince, president and CEO of United Way of the Brazos Valley.

United Way of the Brazos Valley released an official statement on Friday, March 20 announcing plans for the Community Relief fund. United Way and the Community Foundation of the Brazos Valley came together with the Chamber of Commerce, the City of Bryan and the City of College Station, among other members of the community, to implement this plan. Eligible nonprofit organizations will receive extra funding for existing assistance programs, and eligible small businesses will receive assistance for payroll and rent in order to keep their employees paid during this unique time.

Prince said they all knew they wanted to help the community in some way, but they realized this effort was bigger than anything one individual could do.

“I look around and see people who are my neighbors and friends and know they are suffering,” Field said in the press release. “This felt like the perfect way to unite everyone who wants to help and connect them to those around us who can really use it.”

Gerling said the fund’s committee members are currently in the process of reviewing grant applications to determine which nonprofits and local businesses can receive relief and how much funding each one is eligible for.

“When we started this effort, one of my goals was to be very transparent,” Gerling said. “The community is looking to us to ensure that the funds are going where they were intended to.”

Prince said the committee secured commitments from a handful of companies and individuals that totaled just over $80,000 before their announcement on March 20. As of Tuesday, March 31, they have raised over $300,000 in total, and the City of Bryan has offered to match the fund if it reaches $500,000.

“This is a time where all you’re hearing is ‘social distancing,’” Prince said. “I’m so impressed with how many people are pitching in and helping with this effort — and for pitching in for people they don’t even know. That is the most beautiful thing to see in a time when it would be so easy to forget about community.”

As companies are forced to close their doors for a number of reasons, employees have been either laid-off or are temporarily placed on furlough. Gerling said this has led to a number of individuals across the community facing a loss of income or a need for assistance for the first time. The fund’s goal is to either prevent businesses from closing their doors in the first place or to connect nonprofits to those individuals that now need assistance.

"We all love our Aggie and Brazos Valley community,” Gerling said. “We live here, we work here, we go to school here and we want to give here. There are many local businesses who have stood by us for several years and love to serve our students, faculty and wider community, so this is just our way to be able to give back to them."

Members of the community are encouraged to donate whatever they can to the fund by either texting BVCOVID19 to 41444 or by donating online at uwbv.org/covid19.

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