When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it was quickly evident that it was not going to be your average crisis. As the reality of both the health and financial impacts began to set in, credit unions rushed to the forefront of the financial situation and set about putting plans and programs into place to assist their members.
As the pandemic’s reach began to grow and communities shut down, it put tremendous strain on already hard-hit support organizations within all communities. As people began to suffer financially and mentally, the increased demand for services and support began to have a ripple effect in charitable organizations across the region and country.
As all of the pieces were playing out, the Board of Directors of the Mountain West Credit Union Foundation quickly realized that they were in a position to do something and asked the question, ‘how can we help?’ That began a process of looking into the specific needs of each state and different communities within each state.
Todd Pearson, the Foundation Board Chair and Regional President of Alaska USA said, “The Mountain West Credit Union Foundation has always existed to provide help when help was needed, but usually relating to specific credit union industry needs. There have been times over the years where we have allocated relief funds during catastrophic events like fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, etc., but obviously nothing to the level that this pandemic has caused. We knew that as a group representing the credit union movement within our three-state region, we are compelled to do whatever we can to support those in our communities that are in need.”
The Board established “sub-committees” made up of Foundation board members within each state of the region (Arizona, Colorado and Wyoming). Each subcommittee was then tasked to research and ultimately select what organizations (within their region) they felt it best to support to provide the most benefit. As the discussions progressed, the Board, as a whole, determined a common need in all three states was the strain on area food banks, so the decision was made to support at least one food bank within each state.
The Board allocated 10% of its available funds, a total of $250,000, to be used for donations to assist COVID-19 impacted communities. The subcommittees also established common key areas of need: food insecurity, community stabilization, and mental health services. “On behalf of credit unions in AZ, CO, and WY, the Board of Directors of Mountain West Credit Union Foundation stand ready to assist our communities in this time of need, and are working to ensure a better way back for many of those suffering as a result of this pandemic,” said Dr. Dan Santangelo, Executive Director of the Mountain West Credit Union Foundation.
“This is truly an unprecedented situation we are facing in all of our communities,” added Dr. Santangelo. “The Foundation felt that it was imperative that we find a way to assist those organizations on the front lines serving their communities. Much like credit unions are financial first responders, these organizations are the first responders in their respective areas. These organizations are each tremendous community partners, stepping in to fill a great need at this time.”
Pearson said, “with other tragedies that we have supported, there always seemed to be an endpoint to the need. However, with this ‘invisible monster’ of COVID-19 that we are dealing with now, there is so much uncertainty as to when this might end, and when it does end, will things return to the way they were before? Nobody truly knows. But we want to do what we can to help in our communities.”
The organizations that the Foundation made donations to were:
St. Mary’s Food Bank
St. Mary’s Food Bank is a community-based organization, utilizing individual donors, corporate donors, and private grants help feed hungry individuals and families in nine of Arizona’s 15 counties. St. Mary’s gives food to more than 600 nonprofit organizations throughout Arizona so they can give it to their clients in need. Learn more at https://www.firstfoodbank.org/
The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona
The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona was named Food Bank Member of the Year in 2018 by
Feeding America, a network of 200 food banks nationwide. Founded in 1976, The Community Food Bank
of Southern Arizona provides food for people in need, advocacy and nutrition education throughout
southern Arizona including Cochise, Graham, Greenlee, Pima and Santa Cruz Counties. For more
information visit www.communityfoodbank.org.
Valley of the Sun United Way
Valley of the Sun United Way United Way is celebrating 95 years of meeting the most pressing needs of Maricopa County. Valley of the Sun United Way unifies diverse partners, donors, business supporters, nonprofits, government and faith-based communities to build a stronger Valley for us all. United Way and its 90,000 donors, 400 business supporters and 5,000 volunteers fight to break the cycle of poverty by ensuring children and youth succeed, ending hunger and homelessness, and increasing the financial stability of families. Join the fight, visit vsuw.org.
United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona
United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona is building a thriving community by uniting people, ideas and resources. We transform individual lives and bring long-lasting, systemic change to our community by focusing on the key, underlying issues. We fight for the education, financial stability and health of every person in our community. Our role as community convener enables us to form strategic partnerships, mobilize the best resources and be the conduit for needed change. Learn more at www.unitedwaytucson.org
Food Bank of the Rockies
Food Bank of the Rockies works to make food security a realty for Colorado and Wyoming families. We distribute enough food for more than 155,000 meals a day through our direct service programs and partner agencies, helping families thrive in 30 Colorado counties, including metro Denver, and the entire state of Wyoming. Nearly one in ten Coloradans, and one in seven Colorado children, struggles with hunger. Since 1978, Food Bank of the Rockies has provided more than 738 million meals to people in need in our community. Food Bank of the Rockies is a member of Feeding America. For additional information, visit foodbankrockies.org. “Like” Food Bank of the Rockies on Facebook and Instagram, follow the food bank on Twitter and learn more on our blog!
Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners
Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners delivers behavioral health crisis intervention, stabilization and follow-ups through phone, text and chat services. The agency is the designated Crisis and Support line for the State of Colorado, and also operates 14 dedicated crisis lines serving callers throughout the state. Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners’ crisis counselors and peer support specialists average over 250,000 client contacts each year, a number that is expected to rise significantly in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wyoming Hunger Initiative
First Lady Jennie Gordon learned about the problem of food insecurity in Wyoming long before she became the first lady, when a friend from Sheridan was purchasing additional groceries for a local family in need. Because hunger is often an invisible problem, she simply hadn’t known the extent to which Wyoming residents face temporary or long-term food insecurity. Most people don’t. Approximately 71,000 Wyoming residents struggle with food insecurity. Nearly 24,000 of those are children. The barriers children face when struggling with hunger make educational achievement and other success so much harder- in fact, sometimes it makes those things impossible.
Before launching Wyoming Hunger Initiative, Mrs. Gordon made it her top priority to learn as much as possible about childhood hunger and the existing nonprofit organizations already in the fight against hunger statewide. Armed with the unwavering belief that no child should struggle with food insecurity, Wyoming Hunger Initiative was launched in October 2019.
Wyoming Hunger Initiative is the official initiative of Wyoming’s First Lady Jennie Gordon and is governed by the Board of Directors of the Wyoming Governor’s Residence Foundation, a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
Wyoming Matching Grant Program
The Wyoming subcommittee made available a total of $35,000 in matching grants to help COVID-19 victims and their supporters in Wyoming. Credit unions can help right in their community with COVID-19 relief. Grants match the credit union’s donation, up to $2,500. Gifts are allocated to a 501 c3 organization providing assistance to COVID-19 victims and their supporters, and can include but are not limited to food security, housing and shelter, child care, first responder assistance, mental health needs, and more.