Local nonprofits receive grants for pandemic recovery

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published July 21, 2020


ROCHESTER — Of the 84 nonprofits from across the county to share in $9.7 million in grants from the Oakland Together Community Response and Recovery Fund, six are from the Rochester area.

County officials said the grants, which ranged from $4,000 to $500,000, will help the organizations restore vital services and programs — such as food distribution, shelter, health care and financial assistance — that were reduced or eliminated because of the pandemic. The program was administered in partnership with United Way for Southeastern Michigan.

“This geographically diverse collection of grants will go directly to front-line organizations that provide essential services and programming for nearly 500,000 Oakland County residents, especially during this unprecedented time,” Oakland County Executive David Coulter said in a statement. “I’m grateful to the United Way for Southeastern Michigan for doing the administrative heavy lifting to move this program along quickly and efficiently and the county Board of Commissioners for funding the program.”

Rochester-area grant recipients include the Community Foundation of Greater Rochester, Dutton Farm, Healing Complex Kids, the New Day Foundation for Families, the Rochester Area Neighborhood House and the Rochester Community Schools Foundation.

Community Foundation of Greater Rochester President/CEO Johanna Allen said the nonprofit received a $100,000 grant, which will support the Oakland County Blessings in a Backpack program. Blessings in a Backpack provides food on the weekends for elementary school children across America who might otherwise go hungry.

“The grant will be used to serve 38,000 meals during the fall — September, October, November and December,” Allen said.

Jennifer Felmlee, the chief assistant to the CEO of Dutton Farm, said the nonprofit — which is designed to empower and support adults with disabilities to live a life of purpose, inclusion and dignity — was awarded a $50,000 grant.

“The great thing about this grant is it covers the operational costs that are really what’s suffering (due to COVID-19),” she said. “It’s going to let us pay for all of the personal protection equipment, pay to keep the farm clean and pay for our supplies that we need.”

Healing Complex Kids — which helps families get resources and information so they can recover their children with special needs and complex medical conditions — received a $49,851 grant. Julie Cadman, the president and co-founder of the nonprofit, said the grant will go toward designing, creating, printing and publishing a resource book for families that have children with special needs or complex medical conditions. Thanks to the grant, the nonprofit will supply approximately 4,000 copies for free to Oakland County residents this fall. She said the grant will also be used to host webinars with experts knowledgeable on the topics of complex medical conditions and special needs.

“We’re really excited that we have the opportunity to put this book together and put some of these webinars out there to get a lot more information in a usable form for families,” Cadman added.

Gina Kell Spehn, the co-founder and president of the New Day Foundation for Families — which aims to alleviate the financial burden of cancer for individuals and families — said the organization received a $100,000 grant.

“About 15% of it is going to be used to handle some of the administrative costs that we have — staffing, in particular; 10% of it is going to fund our grocery shopping and delivery program; and the other $75,000 is going to be used for our traditional program, which is financial assistance — which includes, primarily, housing, utilities, transportation and other basic household needs,” she said.

The Rochester Community Schools Foundation — which supports and advances learning for RCS students by obtaining contributions for academics, arts and athletics — also received a $100,000 grant. RCS Executive Director of Strategic Communications Lori Grein said approximately $52,500 of the funds have been dedicated for social-emotional wellness training, while the balance has been earmarked for “additional supplies to protect students and staff” upon returning to school in the fall.

“This grant will … help us to be able to support the district’s initiatives,” said RCS Foundation Director Joann Beydoun.  

“Especially with the uncertainty for the next school year, as far as instruction, funding and our budget, we are just so thankful and appreciative for the support of both Oakland County and all the initiatives the Rochester Community Schools Foundation has supported,” RCS Executive Director for Business Affairs Matt McDaniel added. “This allows us to ensure that we provide that social-emotional wellness and PPE for our staff. No matter what the funding situation is, we know we have some money set aside now to accomplish this.”

Katie Lamb, the development director for the Rochester Area Neighborhood House — a private, nonprofit human service organization that services any qualifying families in need from Rochester, Rochester Hills, Auburn Hills east of I-75, Oakland Township and Addison Township — said the organization received a $100,000 grant.

“Nonprofits have really been affected by the economic impact of COVID-19, so the bulk of our grant will go toward direct client assistance,” she explained.

Neighborhood House offers a food pantry, financial assistance, a clothes closet, counseling, transportation, education and a number of special programs to help families and individuals on the path toward self-sustainability during times of hardship.

“In the state of Michigan, a lot of costs for individuals are kind of on hold — as far as evictions and that kind of thing — but as soon as all of that gets lifted, we know that there is going to be a really high influx of individuals coming to us for assistance,” Lamb said.

The grant will also help pay for additional PPE and signage needed to help the nonprofit open safely, additional cleaning of the facility, the nonprofit’s database used to evaluate programs, and an employment initiative.

“With many people either being laid off or having their hours reduced, our employment initiative will help people find gainful employment,” Lamb said.

Grant applicants had to be based in Oakland County or provide services to county residents and be a 501(c)(3) organization. Grants are to be used for costs incurred by Dec. 30, 2020, and ensure operational continuity and expansion to meet growing demand for support services in the county.

The complete list of grant recipients can be found at www.oak gov.com/covid/grants.