By Brandi Yee
The pandemic has taken an incredible toll on everyone in our community, and we have seen how it has exacerbated the pre-existing inequities experienced by our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color neighbors. The Alexandria Resilience Fund was created to support organizations providing essential services to residents disproportionately impacted by COVID and it prioritized partners and programs committed to addressing racial equity and those with deep trusted relationships with marginalized communities. In conversations with nonprofit leaders over the past few months, ACT started hearing more and more about the emotional and physical toll the past 2+ years have had on the staff at organizations (health, well-being, burnout) providing critical services to Alexandrians.
Alexandria nonprofits were asked to take on additional direct service and programmatic work during the pandemic to meet the needs of our neighbors. Many had to pivot their operations as they were no longer able to offer services in person. The separation of staff and working remotely also impacted organizations as members felt disconnected from one another and unable to process all of these new challenges together. There was also the challenge of some staff not being able to work remotely because of the nature of the critical nature of their position. We also heard about secondary trauma and the challenges of walking alongside those who have been affected by the pandemic.
ACT convened nonprofit leaders who shared the needs they were seeing and experiencing, and the group talked about how to navigate these challenges together as a sector. We know a strong and resilient nonprofit sector is vital for a vibrant and thriving Alexandria so we decided the next phase of the Alexandria Resilience Fund would provide grant funding for mental health and wellness support for nonprofit staff. The Alexandria Resilience Fund accepted requests up to $5,000 and awarded $158,724 to 35 nonprofits.
The requests for funding included:
- Team building – several organizations are hosting a retreat to devote time to connecting with one another in an environment away from the office, discussing what’s needed to build team resilience, showing staff member appreciation, and celebrating the work successes of the past two years.
- Financial assistance – several organizations are providing bonuses and supplementing paid leave, with one group increasing each team member’s hourly wage.
- Counseling services – several groups are using the funds to help with out-of-pocket costs for counseling and coaching.
- Personal wellness – many organizations are allocating the funds to support each staff member’s individual needs. One organization is working with a consultant to develop individual wellness plans for each staff member, so it is customized to their specific needs.
Many nonprofits reported that this grant opportunity helped start conversations among the staff about the importance of addressing stressors and the mental health needs in their organizations. One group has created a mental health and wellness committee, and another is planning to add a line item to their budget to address staff wellness.
The organizations are in the process of operationalizing the grant funding and ACT is looking forward to having conversations about the impact of this initiative and sharing more details in the months to come. If you have questions about the Fund, contact Brandi Yee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- African Communities Together
- AHC Inc.
- Alexandria Celebrates Women
- Alexandria Housing Development Corporation
- All Ages Read Together
- Capital Caring Health
- Capital Youth Empowerment Program
- Carpenter’s Shelter
- Casa Chirilagua
- Center for Alexandria’s Children, Inc.
- Christ Church
- Communities In Schools NOVA
- Community Lodgings
- Computer CORE
- Friends of Guest House
- Hopkins House
- Inova Health System Foundation
- K.I. Services, Inc
- Learn & Live Wholestic Health Service
- Northern Virginia Family Service
- Nueva Vida, Inc
- Offender Aid and Restoration (OAR) of Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church
- PK Move Inc
- Rebuilding Together DC Alexandria
- Restoration Immigration Legal Aid
- Scholarship Fund of Alexandria
- Senior Services of Alexandria
- Tenants and Workers United
- The Child & Family Network Centers
- The Dream Project
- Together We Bake
- Volunteer Alexandria