Who’s Helping the Helpers?

The future for some nonprofits is in doubt.

Every day, the neediest among us—the homeless, the hungry, the hopeless—look to our community’s nonprofits for help. They’ve always been there. But recently, as COVID-19 economic shutdowns wreaked havoc across the country, the future became blurry. That’s when the Community Foundation for Ocala/Marion County reached out to local nonprofits to learn how they’re weathering the crisis, and what new, different or growing needs they’re seeing in the community.

In late March of this year, the Community Foundation surveyed local nonprofits about immediate needs, financial stressors and concerns for the future. More than 70 percent expressed serious concerns. One-third said the demands for their services have increased during the pandemic.

“I had childcare businesses that couldn’t get milk or cleaning supplies,” explains Roseann Fricks, CEO of the Early Learning Coalition of Marion County. With healthcare workers and others deemed “essential workers,” their children were still in childcare centers. But many store shelves were bare, and those that did have small stocks of essential items were limiting quantities. The Early Learning Coalition was not alone with its increased need.

“We are seeing families we’ve never seen before,” says Karla Grimsley, CEO of Interfaith Emergency Services and chair of the Community Foundation’s NonProfit Business Council. “The need became so great, we had to take a break.” Grimsley and her staff took a week in April—coordinating with the Salvation Army to ensure services were still available—to regroup and catch their breaths from the influx of need.

Interfaith’s Food 4 Kids program provides food backpacks to more than 1,900 schoolchildren on the weekends. With kids out of school, the need increased while the program had to create new ways to get the food to families in need. The pantry was bare, and many of Interfaith’s most faithful volunteers fell in the categories most susceptible to the coronavirus, so they couldn’t help either. “The community has been great,” she continues. “They have donated money and groceries to restock our shelves at a rate we’ve never experienced before.”

More than 95 percent of all Marion County nonprofits said they expect moderate to high impacts on their programs, services or general operations.

“Behind every number is a person,” asserts Lauren Deiorio, president and executive director of the Community Foundation. “Either that person is trying to meet the needs of another, or that person is in need. Regardless, it’s important to realize the essential services our nonprofits provide to our community’s most vulnerable citizens.”

The local statistics mirror those across the nation. A survey conducted in April by Charity Navigator and Reuters showed 50 percent of the nation’s nonprofits have increased demand while 90 percent have suffered financially due to the shutdown.

“We are concerned right now, but even more concerned for the next three to six months,” Deiorio explains. “Our community relies on nonprofits to provide essential services to our most vulnerable citizens. We are hopeful we can turn things around, but realistically things are going to be hard for our nonprofits for a very long time.”

The longer the community stays in shutdown, the worse this picture could get.

The Small Business Administration’s Payroll Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loans helped some nonprofits in the early days.

“The SBA loans have enabled all of Heart of Florida Health Center’s (HFHC) dedicated and committed staff to continue to be essential, allowing us to fulfill our mission to our patients,” offers Jamie Ulmer, CEO. HFHC is a health center with nine locations, that provides care for both the insured and uninsured. “The PPP has given us the opportunity to continue to focus on the health and safety of the residents of Marion County and do our part to contribute to the incredible team of community healthcare providers.”

Locally, 55 percent of nonprofits who completed the survey applied for more than $6.5 million in PPP aid. While it helped many, the PPP is a short-term solution. The survey showed 80 percent of nonprofits have cancelled programs and events that bring in much needed revenue to support their missions.

“Now, more than ever, we have to consider the long-term implications on this community if one of our vital nonprofits cannot stay afloat,” Deiorio explains.

In response to the community need, the Marion County Hospital District’s COVID-19 Relief Fund, administered by the Community Foundation, has made hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to more than a dozen nonprofits. Businesses have created additional funds at the foundation, directly related to COVID-19 relief for their employees, and individuals have worked to impact immediate needs. The Grant Services department at the Foundation’s Nonprofit Resource Center stands ready to help.

“The needs may be great, but our community is greater. Everyone is so generous here,” Deiorio declares. “Now is a great time to get involved. If a business or individual wants to impact a specific need in our community, we are here to guide them along the way. We can put their passions to work.”

Survey Answers Snapshot

Between March 23 – April 24, 2020, 109 nonprofits responded representing all nonprofit sectors (animals, arts, education, environment, faith-based initiatives, health and human services, housing and more) with annual budget sizes from under $250,000 to more than $25 million. Of those respondents, 62% represent the small business sector with budgets less than $750,000.

All 109 nonprofits responded “yes” to the question: Has your organization been affected by COVID-19?


To see the full Nonprofit Survey Report, visit www.ocalafoundation.org/covid-19


The Community Foundation for Ocala Marion County is building a stronger community…one passion at a time. Programs include the NonProfit Business Council, the Estate Planning Council, and the Nonprofit Resource Center in partnership with Marion County, the City of Ocala, the Marion County Hospital District and AdventHealth.


Posted in LivingTagged

Share this post


What's New at Ocala Style

Read These Writers

Our area has an abundance of authors. Check out some...

‘Water Shapes Florida’

The new exhibit at the Florida Museum of Natural History...

Mastering Your Garden

The dog days of summer can be a good time...

Alligator Allegory

My grandparents were the first to build a home along...

Making Moves

Meet the Ocala-based casting director who has steadily been building...

From France to Ocala

Dr. Jose Gaudier will lecture about the Olympic Games Paris...