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Healdsburg Forever, a regional nonprofit affiliate of Community Foundation Sonoma County, issued a total of $80,000 in emergency grants to six local nonprofits in an effort to help support organizations that are having to ramp up their services to meet increased food, shelter and health care needs.

Checks were cut on May 8 in various amounts for six key nonprofits: The Redwood Empire Food Bank, Healdsburg Food Pantry, Corazón Healdsburg, Farm to Pantry, Reach for Home and Alliance Medical Center.

The grants are unrestricted and can be used to help cover operation costs, payroll or vital programs like Corazón’s Groceries to Go food distribution program.

“We are so grateful to Healdsburg Forever for this emergency grant and their ongoing support of Healdsburg nonprofits, including Corazón Healdsburg,” said Corazón CEO Ariel Kelley. “COVID-19 is a global crisis that is exacerbating existing inequities in our local community. Many of our neighbors are slipping through the cracks of what little safety net there is. We are now seeing more than a thousand people each week at our Groceries to Go food distribution, delivering baby shower gifts directly to our new mothers, helping hundreds of residents complete their census, file for unemployment benefits and continuing to be a conduit for public health information about COVID-19 and how to stay healthy during this pandemic, including distributing hundreds of masks. We are grateful to Healdsburg Forever for making these grants unrestricted so we can meet our community's most urgent needs now.”

On April 22, with the help of Community Impact Officer Ariana Diaz De Leon of Community Foundation Sonoma County, Healdsburg Forever conducted a survey of 20 Healdsburg and Geyserville nonprofits and found that many are faced with a drastic increase in meeting demands for food and shelter needs while also trying to stay afloat without their usual revenue stream from fundraisers and other events.

Of those that responded — there was a 90% response rate — 78% said they are currently providing services, 56% said they are experiencing a fundamental change in financial stability and 72% said that they are applying for a SBA Paycheck Protection Program loan.

“In the survey, the numbers spoke clearly and overwhelmingly of the uptick in needs and demands of the nonprofits in the areas of food security, health and shelter,” said Carol Beattie, the board chair of Healdsburg Forever.”

While Healdsburg Forever typically has a grant cycle that kicks off in November and includes a lengthy application and vetting process with the grants committee, vice chair Ozzy Jimenez said they recognized that they needed to pivot to respond to the pandemic.

“After the Kincade fires and after our grant cycle in November, we recognized that a lot of the grants that we were giving needed to be repurposed. After Kincade we had regranted all of this money and then there were new emerging needs ... I’ve seen our board react and pivot after every disaster. After the Tubbs Fire we funded key nonprofits and during the second fire as well, we pivoted and we allowed our grantees to repurpose the grant money to be able to fill whatever operational emerging needs they were having,” Jimenez said.

Beattie said they knew they wanted to repurpose money in March when it seemed all bets were off and nonprofits would not be holding their annual fundraiser events.

“During these extraordinary times, Reach for Home had to adjust our model of care to include bi-weekly food distributions while trying to protect the safety of our team, our clients and the community. We did it with the uncertainty that we may not have donors to fill the gap,” said Reach for Home Executive Director Colleen Carmichael. “We are incredibly grateful that Healdsburg Forever stepped up and gave us funds so we can keep doing the work.”

Alliance Medical Center CEO Joan Churchill said Healdsburg Forever’s grant will help the continuation of providing quality health care services.

“I am also unbelievably awed by the generosity of my new hometown, thank you! In order to be able to provide the care we need in the new environment of COVID-19 mitigation, we are changing the way we operate. This is a difficult time and your generous gift will help us be able to provide safe, quality care,” Churchill said in an email.

Most of the giving that Healdsburg Forever provides to other organizations is funded by its endowment fund.

“Most of our giving that goes directly to nonprofits is done out of our endowment fund. We’re at $1.3 million and so we get a percentage off of that fund and so that percentage off every year is what we give to the community,” Jimenez said.

The organization was created in 2003 in an effort to fund small nonprofits in Healdsburg and Geyserville.

“The reason for our being is after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, we saw a downturn in the economy and we saw that disproportionately nonprofits and organizations were being funded in high density areas like Santa Rosa for example, and Jason Lyles, who was on the city council at the time, and Richard Burg got together and said, ‘We need to build some sort of mechanism, organization that helps keep funding here in Healdsburg and Geyserville.’ We weren’t really feeling supported by the larger organizations that exist in Santa Rosa and so that is why Healdsburg Forever came to be,” Jimenez explained.

The endowment fund was then set up, and over the years it accrued interest and was placed in the community foundation and Healdsburg Forever became an affiliate of Community Foundation Sonoma County, according to Beattie.

Beattie said this has been the foundation’s “banner year” for giving. Since December, it has given $180,000 —  $175,000 of which were grants and $5,000 of which were emergency grants.

Jimenez said of the organization, “One of the things that I really enjoy about our organization is is whether you’re a big nonprofit, whether you’re a small nonprofit, you can still count on having Healdsburg Forever’s support.” 

To learn more about Healdsburg Forever or to make a donation, visit: healdsburgforever.org.

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