3 Funds Mobilize Over $3M to Support Berkshires COVID-19 Relief

Berkshire United Way, Bershire Taconic Community Foundation Release Report on Emergency Response

September 10, 2020

BERKSHIRE COUNTY – Collaborative and rapid-response grantmaking by Berkshire United Way, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Northern Berkshire United Way and Williamstown Community Chest during the COVID-19 pandemic has helped service providers and schools, many of them working in tandem and serving the same residents, reach an estimated 68,000 people in Berkshire County.

From March 19 to Aug. 3, the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund for Berkshire County distributed more than $2 million in relief grants to 95 nonprofit organizations helping the most vulnerable populations in the county. The fund has awarded 132 grants to help with food, housing, health and mental health services, and emergency child care and youth services, with a focus on hard hit populations such as low-income families, communities of color and seniors.

“When we realized this pandemic would be devastating to the nonprofit sector, our local economy and our neighbors, our organizations came together quickly to mobilize resources and funding to help our community through this challenging time,” said Candace Winkler, president and CEO of Berkshire United Way. “Thanks to our generous donors, our grantmaking team continued to award grants, even as needs shifted. This pandemic is far from over, but we remain here for good to help the people of Berkshire County.”

Responding Together

A new report released by Berkshire Taconic and Berkshire United Way, Responding Together: Outcomes and Impacts from the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund for Berkshire County, draws on reports from grantees to show that flexible resources helped them meet critical needs in the community.

The report provides an overview of grantmaking, stories from grantees, and a summary of outcomes and impacts by service clusters, and closes with insights about community resilience in Berkshire County.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten lives and livelihoods, it has exposed the fragility of many families, the vulnerabilities in our systems and our country’s stark inequities,” said Peter Taylor, president of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. “But in this unprecedented moment, we joined forces at the local level through philanthropy and trusted partnerships to meet emerging needs. Together, we have supported the critical work of hundreds of nonprofits serving our neighbors who need them most.”

This in-depth report, along with a condensed report on the response, can be found on Berkshire United Way’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund web page.

BTCF, MA Funds

In partnership with the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund, BTCF worked with BUW to mobilize an additional $750,000 for grants focused on essential frontline workers and vulnerable populations including the homeless, immigrants, people with disabilities and those facing food insecurity. This statewide fund, made possible through private philanthropy, worked in concert with regional community foundations to understand the response and relief landscape, strategically filling in where gaps are pronounced.

BTCF also activated its longstanding emergency assistance Neighbor-to-Neighbor funds. Established in the wake of the Great Recession, these relief funds support emergency grants for medical, food, utility and other critical baseline services for people in crisis around the region through trusted providers. Grants from the Berkshire County Neighbor-to-Neighbor Fund currently total more than $250,000 to 13 organizations.
Together, the three funds awarded 185 grants.

Grantmaking has paused in order for the four organizations to assess the longer-term needs related to the pandemic. They will continue to monitor emerging needs from community partners and seek to better understand how recovery efforts for the nonprofit sector can build stability for vulnerable residents and the organizations they count on for support.

As one grantee shared in the impact report, “We have come together, with mutual trust and without judgment, to ensure the needs of the community are met,” but, “we’re increasingly aware of the long-term, systemic change that needs to happen.”

Media Contacts:

Justin Burke                                                                           
Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation
E: jburke@berkshiretaconic.org                                           
P: 413.429.8423 / M: 917.547.0211

Karrie Buratto
Berkshire United Way
E: kburatto@berkshiretaconic.org
M: 518.229.2086