Everything changed for nonprofits when COVID-19 first appeared in our communities. The organizations had to deal with increased demand, fewer resources and new rules for operation—and people had lost any semblance of routine. This resulted in severe mental health crises and challenges were exacerbated. So, these organizations, often low on resources, had to adapt quickly to meet the needs of those who relied on them.
Blanchet House, an organization that provides meals and housing programs, immediately canceled indoor meal services and switched to to-go operations. At the same time, they added services to meet new needs—they became the place to get a clean shirt for a job interview or to charge a phone in order to deposit a stimulus check online.
Demand for services increased for El Centro de la Raza, a voice and hub for the Latino community, but many of the people they needed to reach lacked access to technology or smartphones.
Emergency Food Network (EFN), which operates 80 food pantries and a warehouse in Pierce County, was faced with a sharp reduction in volunteers, fewer donations and scarcity of products, while demand for food pantries increased 76%.
Nonprofits were pulled in a lot of different directions and they didn’t have departments dedicated to securing a government Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan that could help keep things running smoothly. Michelle Douglas, CEO at EFN, explains the challenge they and other organizations were facing, “We’re not all in the same kind of boat. Some of us are in big boats and we have way more stability and some of us are in little tiny kayaks and we are being very, very rocked by this.”
For many of these nonprofits, Heritage Bank was a familiar face in their operations—a fundraising partner, a sponsor, a volunteer—and they knew they could turn to us for help navigating the PPP loan process. In many cases, we were able to help them with the application process and get approval within a day or two.
The PPP loans were a lifeline. “We didn’t budget for this crisis. No one did,” says Scott Kerman, executive director of Blanchet House. They used the PPP loan to pay their employees and cover packaging costs that came with to-go service. EFN used the loan to keep cash upfront so they were able to buy food they needed when it was available. Estela Ortega, executive director of El Centro de la Raza, explains, “A lot of times for people who are in need, a nonprofit may be the last stop in terms of being able to provide an array of services that are going to stabilize people’s lives.” The loan meant they could keep their full staff and continue regular operations.
For now, these organizations are doing their best to continue serving the needs of their communities. Scott puts it simply, “At the end of the day, we’ve handed out maybe a thousand meals. We’ve handed out clothing. We’ve charged phones. That’s it. That’s the measure of the day. That’s what we do, and so every day is a success.”
Watch the video below to learn more about how Heritage helped these nonprofits and others navigate this challenging time.