Donations Sought for Lewis County COVID-19 Response Fund

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The United Way of Lewis County and the Community Foundation of South Puget Sound are working together to establish the Lewis County COVID-19 Response Fund in light of the growing epidemic.

The Community Foundation is providing $15,000 in matching funds to United Way of Lewis County to expand local capacity and address all aspects of the outbreak. 

The fund is designed to complement the work of public health officials, and donations can be made at lewiscountyuw.com. 

Two days after United Way of Lewis County announced it was accepting donations for a COVID-19 response fund, the Law Firm of Althauser, Rayan and Abbarno donated $3,000 that will go toward making and delivering 1,000 meals for senior citizens.

Partners Todd Rayan, Jakob McGhie and Peter Abbarno discussed the donation on the morning of March 18 and decided it was a way they could help. 

“There are people who very much don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” Rayan said. “It’s not much, but whatever we can do to support this, we want to support this.” 

The fund was established via partnership between the Community Foundation of South Puget Sound and United Way of Lewis County. The Community Foundation committed to providing up to $15,000 in matching funds for United Way to combat the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

United Way of Lewis County Executive Director Debbie Campbell said supplying the meals to those who rely on them in the midst of the area’s senior center closures was one of the county’s most glaring needs.

Campbell, Lewis County Seniors Executive Director Glenda Forga and Twin Transit General Manager Joe Clark meet every day regarding the situation with the county’s seniors, according to Campbell.

“Glenda said they had to go down to Portland and pick up containers to put the meals in, because they’d run out,” Campbell said. “So, now there’s a cost there that she doesn’t have in her budget, so that would be covered, you know, we would pay for something like that.” 

In Monday’s COVID-19 meeting with the Board of County Commissioners, Clark offered Twin Transit’s vehicles to help deliver the meals. Volunteer Chore Services has since joined the effort, as well. 

“We were going to get volunteers to help deliver the food,” Campbell said. “Here’s Joe Clark, sitting behind me and he says, ‘you know what, how about if we just take the seats out of the busses and put the meals in there and we’ll do it, we’ll deliver it?’ It’s just so great to see these partnerships form.”

According to Abbarno, the effort to help the county’s most vulnerable population in the midst of a pandemic can be shared by everyone in the community. He mentioned a call he was on with Forga and Ron Averill of Lewis County Seniors on which they informed him that it cost the centers $3 to make one meal. 

“I think when you’re talking about donating to a relief fund, a lot of people don’t understand that even if they contributed three dollars, that’s a meal for somebody,” Abbarno said. “Even if they contributed five dollars, that’s a container that can get out to the community so people can eat, keep their health and maybe stave off death.”

The two organizations managing the fund — United Way and the Community Foundation —  will gather data to identify emerging needs and identify gaps in existing services. They will work to rapidly mobilize resources to the people who are most vulnerable to the economic impacts of COVID-19 in Lewis County. 

“The fund will allow us to provide support for the people in our region who are disproportionately impacted by coronavirus and the economic consequences of this outbreak,” said Mindie Reule, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of South Puget Sound. “And our partnership with United Way of Lewis County demonstrates the collaborative, unified response that is needed at this time.”

The fund will also provide money to assist the “most disproportionately impacted individuals and families, as well as certain organizations in our community who are serving those populations,” according to the press release. 

The two organizations will work closely with local governments, public health and emergency management officials, and community leaders in order to respond and react effectively through the evolving outbreak and recovery phases. 

“For our community to successfully navigate the potentially devastating impacts of COVID-19, strong partnerships are absolutely essential,” said Campbell. “The collaboration between the Community Foundation of South Puget Sound and United Way of Lewis County will enable us to move quickly and strategically to serve the people who are most vulnerable in this crisis.”

Abbarno said, his conversations with different organizations around the county center around state and federal funding and when those funds might become available. Campbell said the community has already taken matters into its own hands. 

It’s not the first time Lewis County has beaten outside help to the punch. 

 “I remember FEMA coming in (during the 2007 floods) and saying ‘woah, woah, wait minute, there’s going to be money coming,’ you know, after you fill out all the forms,” Campbell said. “We were like ‘no, we’re hitting the ground running’ because people want to give, they want to take care of their neighbors now."

Rayan called the response by Lewis County residents and their giving nature “inspiring.” 

“I think the partnerships are great, the community spirit and all of that is great, but I think it’s also really important, right now, at this time, it’s really not about any of us,” Rayan said. “It’s about the people that need the help. That’s where the focus needs to be. These people need help. They need food, they need supplies and anything anybody can do to help people in this time of uncertainty, people are going to be grateful for it.”

For anyone looking to volunteer around Lewis County, Campbell said they can sign up at www.volunteerlewis.org. 

“In times like this, it’s important to remember that as a community, this is who we are,” McGhie said. “We rise up and help one and other because it’s important, when you’re a part of a community, to protect and provide for your community in times like this.”

Individual and corporate gifts can also be made in person or by mail at United Way of Lewis County, located at 450 NW Pacific Avenue in Chehalis.