Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Barancik Foundation launch COVID-19 response initiative

$1.5 million committed to helping those needing assistance, including anticipate first-time clients for service providers

Image courtesy Gulf Coast Community Foundation

The Gulf Coast Community Foundation and the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation “have introduced a philanthropic initiative to fortify key health and safety organizations in the region amid the growing COVID-19 crisis,” the two nonprofits announced on March 21.

The foundations have total commitments so far of $1.5 million to support the initiative, a news release says. They are challenging Gulf Coast donors and other philanthropists in the community to match that amount, the release adds.

“Philanthropy must be a leader in complementing governmental responses to this crisis,” said Mark S. Pritchett, president and CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation, in the release. “Our nonprofit partners count on us, especially in times of unforeseen challenge, and we are counting on our donors to lean in right now, too,” he added in the release.

The foundations’ COVID-19 Response Initiative aims to support lead health, human service, and safety organizations “facing increased demand for services right now and in the coming months,” the release explains. Working together, the foundations will determine how best to allocate funding “to give strained organizations immediate relief while also helping to build their long-term capacity to continue providing vital safety-net support,” the release adds.

“Our board views this as an investment in shoring up the systems and relationships we have already built,” said Teri A Hansen, president and CEO of Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, in the release.

The Barancik Foundation board members held an emergency meeting so they could commit $500,000 to the initiative, the release notes. “We want to make sure that our region’s coordinated systems for things like hunger relief, homeless services, and mental health care can withstand the added burdens that are sure to come,” Hansen pointed out in the release.

Jon Thaxton, a senior vice president of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation who is overseeing the initiative on behalf of Gulf Coast, “was quick to note that the uncertainty of the escalating pandemic: means the foundations’ response will evolve, too, the release adds.

“Initially, we anticipate investing in the strong partners and existing safety-net systems we have in place in our community,” Thaxton said in the release. “However, we must remain flexible and nimble so we can adapt our approaches to meet newly emerging needs.”

The foundations anticipate added challenges for public and nonprofit agencies because of “the sheer number of residents who may seek assistance for the very first time,” the release explains. Along with the direct health impacts of the coronavirus, the release notes, “the containment strategies necessary to control its spread are already affecting everything from employment and financial security to childcare and feeding availability.”

“We expect to see many community members who have never turned to a nonprofit for help before,” said John Annis, Thaxton’s counterpart at the Barancik Foundation, in the release. “Guiding them to assistance that’s available and making sure they can navigate the system will be crucial services in and of themselves,” he added in the release.

Foundation leaders stressed that this new initiative should not divert direct charitable giving to other community organizations during the crisis, the release added. “We need our donors to continue supporting their favorite arts and cultural organizations, animal shelters, and other programs, even as we invite them to help us strengthen the social safety net for those most vulnerable to COVID-19’s devastating impacts,” said Gulf Coast’s Pritchett in the release. “This is a time when we are urging our donors to do more if they are able to do so,” he emphasized.

Donors with charitable funds at Gulf Coast Community Foundation are encouraged to use the foundation’s online donor portal to direct a gift from their funds to the initiative, the release says. Other community members who would like to make a donation may visit and click on “COVID-19 Fund.”