‘We take care of our own:’ Kansas City metro organizations form COVID-19 response and recovery fund, aim to reach $13 million

The KC Regional COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund will distribute grants as soon as possible to charitable organizations and nonprofits. While organizations have not yet been allocated funds, one funding priority is food insecurity, an issue Harvesters addresses.

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Four Kansas City metropolitan organizations formed a coalition with a $13 million fundraising goal in an effort to help communities impacted by COVID-19.

The Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, United Way of Greater Kansas City, Local Initiatives Support Greater Kansas City, and the Mid-America Regional Council are co-leading the Kansas City Regional COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund. The fund is a result of the community’s desire to support one another, according to GKC Community Foundation Chief Executive Officer Debbie Wilkerson.

“[The community] wants to help and support and lead in this time,” Wilkerson said. “Especially with the knowledge that there are going to be so many vulnerable communities in our region that are going to be greatly impacted. Everybody is trying to do their part, and philanthropy is going to do its part, as well.”

A 15-member advisory board will oversee grant applications sent in by nonprofits and charitable organizations that work directly with vulnerable populations. An initial round of grants will be distributed as soon as possible with a focus on housing support, food insecurity, access to healthcare and other critical human services, according to the fund’s website.

The fund has already collected $3 million, Wilkerson said.

The Hall Family Foundation and the Sunderland Foundation have partnered in a challenge grant: the two foundations will match all donations up to $5 million. The $5 million match is in addition to the $3 million already collected, meaning the fund can raise up to $13 million at this point, she said.

Funders did not hesitate to step up, and there are more ready to donate, Wilkerson said.

“I have no doubt that we will be meeting that generous match that was offered,” Wilkerson said. “It’s a testimony to this community and how quickly and how generously the funders and the donors have given.”

United Way of Kansas City Chief Executive Officer Brent Stewart said the coalition is trying to make sure the community sees the fund as an opportunity to help one another. Stewart said the coalition is hopeful that, aside from the basic want to help a neighbor, the $5 million match will encourage individuals to donate what they can — even if it’s a $5 donation.

Additionally, Stewart said the coalition is using each organization’s expertise to respond to coronavirus in a holistic way. While other communities across the country are working to provide relief, Steward said he has not seen others form partnerships such as the one formed here in the metro.

“We know Kansas City is a special place,” Stewart said. “It’s these types of efforts that give testimony to that strong belief that in Kansas City, we take care of our own.”

Individuals who wish to donate to this fund can do so here. Institutional funders interested in joining this effort can contact GKC Community Foundation’s Denise St. Omer at stomer@growyourgiving.org. Community Foundation donors can log-in and use their “donor-advised funds” to make grants to the cause.

Organizations interested in grant funding from this effort can complete this form for consideration. Although the COVID-19 fund is not being distributed directly to individuals, individuals in need can contact United Way by dialing 211 or visiting 211kc.org for assistance.