The Pandemic’s Crippling Effects on Nonprofits

Andrew Padousis

The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly altered life as we know it and forced us to adapt and overcome hurdles we never expected to face. With the country as a whole under economic strain, many individuals and families have found themselves in dire financial situations. It is now more important than ever for nonprofits to assist these individuals. However, some are finding it difficult to serve the clients that they have worked with in the past, especially charities that benefit school-age children. Two local non-profits, KidSmart, which provides school supplies to underprivileged children, and Operation Food Search, a local food bank that has an extensive history of feeding children lacking a secure food source, have faced new challenges that have been met with passionate resolve.

While high-school students across the country enter the world of online school, many underprivileged children lack computing capability, access to WIFI, and crucial school supplies and equipment — all the while struggling in an unfamiliar learning environment. In order to effectively and safely distribute supplies to children, Jennifer Miller, CEO of KidSmart, shared that finding innovative ways to reach these children has been critical. Since many teachers are no longer seeing their students in school, KidSmart has begun filling teachers’ cars with supplies, who then deliver these materials to their student’s porches or drop them off at homeless shelters where some of these children reside. Similarly, Operation Food Search has pioneered a pickup program where food-insecure students can come pick up food, in addition to the staff delivering food to large school districts for distribution to the community.

Despite the operational pivots successfully carried out by these nonprofits to meet the community’s critical needs, both of these organizations have faced challenging circumstances during these uncertain times. Struggling to keep up with soaring demand, Operation Food Search served 500,000 meals through their Summer Food Service Program when they normally only prepare 90,000 meals. This pressure to administer the output of such high quantities occurred simultaneously to Operation Food Search’s decision to close its doors entirely to the large contingent of outside volunteers, while Kid Smart has limited their volunteers to eight at a time to ensure safety in their warehouse. Additionally, Kid Smart has fallen short of fundraising goals, as it is unable to hold its main fundraising event of the year, while Operation Food Search has actually experienced an increase in donations.

Both organizations shared that they have witnessed tremendous displays of generosity in our community. Jennifer Miller of KidSmart remarked that an anonymous philanthropist donated a tractor trailer of high end Dixon-Ticonderoga school supplies just when they were needed most. Kirsten Wild of Operation Food Search said that she has seen all kinds of ingenuitive ways that the community has worked together to raise money, ranging from a 100 mile run in Forest Park bringing in $20,000, to a man giving casual porch concerts for his neighborhood to aid in the support of helping to end hunger. In the bleak times of Covid, it turns out that despite widespread hardship and challenges in our community, there are always some surprising blessings to give us all a little hope.