The Walker Area Community Foundation (WACF) is no stranger to responding to a crisis. From natural disasters to economic downturns, the Jasper-based nonprofit mobilizes resources and connects people and nonprofits during the most challenging times.
“Our role here is to listen to what the needs are in the community and pulling the right people in to organize solutions around those needs,” said Cristy Moody, director of operations for WACF.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Walker County and Jasper City school systems chose not to participate in food distribution for students because of health risks to employees. The staff at WACF knew they had to rise to the challenge and find a solution.
By partnering with local nonprofit Raising Arrows and using food donated by the school systems, they were able to quickly establish a food distribution system for anyone in need. Now, Raising Arrows prepares and distributes more than 2,000 hot meals each day, all distributed at designated drive-thru pickup locations throughout Walker County.
“In any disaster, we try to be the convener and bring together the nonprofit organizations that are providing direct service,” said Moody. “And with the COVID-19 crisis, we ended up focusing on and organizing community feeding.”
With Raising Arrows taking the lead on food distribution and volunteer coordination, Moody says WACF is able to focus on responding to other COVID-19 relief efforts, including activating an emergency grant cycle and aligning its Onward Fund giving to assist individuals affected by the pandemic.
“Our Onward Fund was created in 2018 as a way for nonprofits to apply for funding on behalf of their clients who are trying to find economic stability but have come across barriers,” said Moody. “We are now using this fund to help laid-off workers and point them in the right direction for help.”
Beyond providing emergency funding, WACF is identifying child care solutions for essential workers, developing a COVID-19 resources hub on its website and working with local nursing homes to provide care to residents.
Moody understands that the work of WACF would not be possible without support from partners, such as the Alabama Power Foundation, to help WACF connect nonprofits and people to the resources they need.
“The strength in our ability to meet the needs of people is in our nonprofit organizations. They already know what to do,” said Moody. “We just help them get to where they need to be.”