My ReACTion: Helping the Helpers

By Heather Peeler

Our country and community are in the midst of a mental health crisis. According to a study done by the CDC, in late June of 2020: “40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance use”.

The dedicated and caring employees of Alexandria’s nonprofits are not immune.

Nonprofit staff have been on the front lines caring for our community non-stop. They have supported our neighbors who have been thrust into crisis due to the pandemic with compassion and professionalism, all while navigating the complications of social distancing, vaccination scheduling, and the myriad of complications and stresses that also affected their own families and personal lives.

When we asked nonprofit leaders what they and their organizations needed right now, they told us that their staff was experiencing burnout, low morale, and health concerns. They told us that many of their staff are experiencing a secondary trauma as a result of their efforts to help Alexandrians avoid evictions, find food for their families, and alleviate suffering.

Thanks to the generosity of our donors, the Alexandria Resilience Fund was established to help our community respond to the ongoing pandemic. In 2020 and 2021 the Fund made more that $5.76 million in grants to local nonprofits addressing the immediate health, economic, and housing needs of Alexandrians. This year we are excited to dedicate funds to help the helpers – the committed nonprofit professionals who were there when our community needed them the most.

This year we awarded $158,724 to 35 Alexandria nonprofits to address the mental health and wellness needs of nonprofit staff. The funds will support activities and programs that nonprofit staff identified as most beneficial, restorative, and in support of their well-being.

Priority was given to organizations that have been providing critical services to Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) Alexandria residents and those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Because the funds could be used in way that nonprofit staff members themselves determined would be beneficial, a range of initiatives are supported. These requests for funding include:

  • Team building – staff retreat/activities
  • Financial assistance – bonuses, supplementing paid leave, sabbaticals
  • Counseling services – access to mental health funds for counseling (helping with out-of-pocket costs)
  • Personal wellness – exercise, massage, and other wellness activities

Investing in Alexandria’s nonprofit community has been core to ACT’s work since our founding in 2004. We believe that a strong, robust nonprofit community is essential to a healthy, vibrant community. Nonprofit organizations are tackling some of our toughest issues, and need staff that is not only caring, but well cared for.

Adam Grant, management and leadership guru recently said: “Employees are not resources to manage. They are humans to value. Bad managers only care about your results. Good managers care about your wellbeing. Great managers care more about your wellbeing than your results.”

ACT has the privilege to work alongside amazing nonprofits that work hard every day to improve the lives of Alexandrians. We are honored to support the wellbeing of the people who make those nonprofits amazing.



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