Emergency grants designed to help West Marin’s neediest

04/01/2020

Money is pooling to support those most in need. 

Immediately following the shelter-in-place order last month, the Marin Community Foundation and the West Marin Fund provided emergency funds to a handful of local nonprofits that offer key services to residents on the coast.  

M.C.F. gave new awards to three local groups it typically supports—the San Geronimo Valley Community Center, West Marin Community Services and West Marin Senior Services—and freed up monies already authorized to the Coastal Health Alliance for discretionary use. At the same time, the West Marin Fund buoyed local childcare operations, which passed the money on to the low-income families who did not benefit from refunded tuition.  

Both foundations established emergency funds to continue to raise money to support the groups, and others. 

Thomas Peters, the president of M.C.F, described the area’s nonprofits as essential conduits for the funds. “The groups have the closest and most individual relationships with the families in need,” he said. “These are all organizations that we have years and years of relationships with. We know that they are providing critically important services, so we offered some additional funding to each of them, with no strings attached.”

The community center received $50,000, W.M.C.S. was awarded $75,000 and W.M.S.S. $100,000. The Coastal Health Alliance may now use the remaining $75,000 of an annual grant of $100,000. 

Socorro Romo, the executive director of W.M.C.S., spoke to the Light this week first thing in the morning, taking a small break in what has been around-the-clock organizing over the past several weeks. The group is continuing to provide services—rental assistance, food, translation and more—while following social distancing protocols. 

Ms. Romo said she’s focusing the new foundation funds on those who are not eligible for other assistance. Forty-five percent of the money will go toward rents, 25 percent to motel vouchers to the homeless, 13 percent toward staff putting in extra time, and the rest toward other needs as they arise. Already, the funds are stretched, given the high demand. 

Ms. Romo is especially focused on immigrants who do not have a social security number, which leaves them ineligible for unemployment benefits and other aid.

“Yesterday, things were calmer, but today I can tell is going to be busy,” Ms. Romo said Tuesday as the phone rang in the background. “At first, people were requesting food, making sure they had enough to eat. Now they are realizing, it’s the end of the month, they need rental assistance.”

In the valley, Dave Cort, the executive director of the San Geronimo Valley Community Center, reported similar circumstances. The center has partnered with the San Geronimo Valley Affordable Housing Fund to set up a fund for rental assistance for valley residents; applications will be available later this week.  

The center’s weekly food bank shuttered when the Lagunitas School, which shares the property, closed. But the community center, in partnership with the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, quickly reoriented: last Thursday and again today, the bank offered a drive-through service with bagged groceries. 

Around 75 percent of the users of that food bank are seniors, reported the center’s director of human services, Nicole Ramirez. Last Thursday she said she saw an increase in families who preferred the service over a trip to the grocery store.

West Marin Senior Services is expanding its food delivery services to more seniors, with anyone 60 and up qualifying. New signups are coming in every day, said spokeswoman Amena Hajjar, though the list, at 40, is still relatively small. A hotline for seniors has also now expanded to include daily check-ins. There have been ample volunteers to help out, Ms. Hajjar said.

Steven Siegel, the Coastal Health Alliance’s C.E.O., said M.C.F. converted a recurring quality improvement grant to a general operating support grant, allowing the health center to reassign funds to Covid-19 expenses as needed. 

Mr. Siegel said that’s helpful, especially considering it is unclear how much state and federal assistance the center will receive. Much of the center’s typical funding is determined by the number of patients seen in the clinics, and that number has gone down drastically in recent weeks. 

 Funds for families

In addition to the new allocations from M.C.F., the local West Marin Fund has taken steps to shore up coastal nonprofits that provide essential services. Earlier this week, it had six new grants in the works, though the foundation’s first action last month was to focus on low-income families now deprived of childcare. 

The foundation awarded funds to two preschools: $8,000 to Papermill Creek Children’s Corner and $6,000 to Shoreline Acres Preschool in Tomales. That money will go toward assisting families while the preschools are closed. 

Lourdes Romo, the executive director of Papermill, said the preschool reimbursed the families who paid full tuition for March and April. For families who pay subsidized tuition or none at all, Papermill divided the money from the West Marin Fund. Out of its 34 families, 21 received funds to use however they see fit. 

Without childcare, Ms. Romo said she has heard that in families where both parents are still working, older siblings are looking after younger ones. With 60 percent of the families who attend Papermill living on local ranches, many still have at least one parent employed. 

“The families are very overburdened right now, and it’s amazing how fast this emergency grant came to be,” she said. 

Daphne Cummings, the director of Shoreline Acres, said she followed a similar model. Out of 24 families, 15 who have scholarships received cash this week funneled through the West Marin Fund. 

“For many, it came just in time,” Ms. Cummings said. 

Emergency funds

Both the Marin Community Foundation and the West Marin Fund have started emergency funds to support nonprofits providing essential services.

On March 21, the West Marin Fund launched a Covid-19 community response fund, assigning $50,000 of its own resources to kick it off. By Tuesday, it had reached $100,000, with donations from more than 40 donors and pledges for an additional $125,000 over the next three months.

Executive Director Sarah Hobson outlined her hopes for the fund. “Over the coming weeks, it will provide immediate funding to trusted local nonprofits that provide essential services in the community,” she said. “It will ensure families and individuals facing the greatest hardship receive assistance, particularly undocumented residents, families of low-income with young children, and isolated seniors.”

The Marin Community Foundation last week partnered with the county to create a second response fund targeted toward the most vulnerable residents. 

The monies, which will be allocated over the next several months by the foundation and the county’s Health and Human Services Department, will go toward four primary efforts: emergency rental assistance for low-income residents, expanded food for economically disadvantaged families, expanded meals for seniors, internet access for economically disadvantaged students and emergency childcare for health care workers and first responders. 

“Our goal [is] to expend and distribute these funds as expeditiously as possible,” Matthew Hymel, the county administrator, wrote to the supervisors last week. “However, we may need to return to your board to increase existing contracts with our nonprofit partners to fully implement these enhancements.”  

This week, the Board of Supervisors allocated over half—$650,000—to provide rental assistance to low-income residents. Five equal contracts were given to the Ritter Center, Adopt a Family of Marin, Community Action Marin, St. Vincent De Paul and North Marin Community Services.  

 

To donate to the West Marin Fund, visit westmarinfund.org. To support the Marin Community Foundation, go to marincf.org.