Aiming to weather this storm in the same boat

Opinion: Columns

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Tony Martinez Jr

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The COVID-19 global pandemic has changed our lives dramatically and given rise to uncertainties that weigh heavily on each of us. As the loosening of some restrictions opens a path forward, we continue to seek direction in a world of unknowns. Yet while we are all weathering the same storm, we are not all in the same boat.

The Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation (OPRFCF) created its Rapid Response and Recovery Fund in mid-March, as the pandemic began to affect local communities. We established this resource in order to support organizations providing our most vulnerable residents with fundamental human needs and services: food, shelter and health care. The fund also aids local nonprofits that provide important financial relief and counseling services to address mental health issues and economic difficulties brought on by the pandemic. These community-based organizations have shown unwavering dedication to delivering crucial assistance throughout a time of incredible distress.

The constant, extraordinary generosity of our community members has made this support possible. In just two months, more than 250 residents have given over $200,000 to the fund. Combined with the foundation's seed and matching gifts, monies from the Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund, and the amazing generosity of Ken and Patty Hunt, longtime Oak Parkers and foundation friends, we have been able to raise more than $850,000 in financial resources to our communities. 

Because of contributions to the Rapid Response and Recovery Fund, OPRFCF has granted $500,000 to 27 area nonprofits to date, with more to be granted in the coming months. Organizations like the African American Christian Foundation (AACF), which will continue to empower young adults with employment and self-sufficiency. AACF will also offer rental assistance to those who are furloughed, and continue employee placement at essential businesses, helping 70 area youth.

We realize our communities' needs will continue to grow due to this unprecedented health crisis, and our resolve to meet those challenges is firm. Further extending their generosity, Ken and Patty Hunt have pledged additional giving to the fund, and will match every donation, dollar for dollar, up to a total of $250,000. We ask that you consider contributing to this vital resource by visiting and making a donation. No amount is too small.

On behalf of the foundation's board of directors and staff, we are forever grateful to the Hunt family, and to all those who continue to support our nonprofit community, whether directly to the organizations of their choice, crowdfunding sources, or contributions to the Rapid Response and Recovery Fund. In addition, we are immensely thankful for those who have demonstrated innovative ways to lend support, such as those repurposing their businesses to provide essential goods and services.

We wish you and your loved ones good health and well-being, and we stand in solidarity with you as we continue to weather this storm.

Tony Martinez Jr. is president and CEO of the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation.

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Deborah Wess  

Posted: May 29th, 2020 1:07 PM

Kudos to the OPRFCF and all the donors, large and small. But the headline is an inapt metaphor. One of COVID's greatest lessons has been the reminder that we are *not* all in the same boat, despite weathering the same storm. The racial disparity in cases and deaths, the lost jobs and income while others have reliable work comfortably done from home, are only the most glaring examples of our differences that the pandemic has brought into sharp relief. Thanks to the work of the Community Foundation for trying to ameliorate those differences.

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