When COVID-19 began affecting the St. Louis community in March of 2020, the Jewish Federation of St. Louis created the Community Response Fund to support community members and Jewish institutions in need. As of July 2020, Federation has invested nearly $225,000 to meet community needs.
Several rounds of investment from the COVID-19 Community Response Fund have already gone to assist the most vulnerable people in the Jewish community and ensure that organizations have the technology tools they need.
480 Donors Have Given $685,000
More than 480 donors have given to the fund, which was started with a $100,000 donation from Carol and Michael Staenberg. Thanks to support from these generous community members, the fund has now topped $685,000.
Community Support and Investments
“Since Federation already has in place a robust system for evaluating aid needs, we were able to quickly get a first round of much-needed funds where they will do the most good,” said Brian Herstig, President & CEO of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis.
JFS (formerly known as Jewish Family & Children’s Services), received $89,000 in the initial round of investment. Those funds were directed toward the following relief efforts:
- $42,000 is for direct cash assistance for those affected by the pandemic
- $37,000 is to support staffing needs of the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry
- $10,000 is to expand mental health services
In April, the Response Fund invested over $4,000 in Kosher for Passover hot meals and shelf-stable food for those in need through the J’s 613 Catering and Crown Center.
Assistance for Jewish Organizations
Recognizing needs expressed by organizational leaders, the Response Fund provided over $56,000 to support Jewish organizations in purchasing technology critical to reaching their constituents and furthering their missions in our new virtual reality. At the same time, our Board of Directors approved a pool of $75,000 to provide ongoing support to Jewish organizations providing free or subsidized food to people in need due to COVID-19.
Human Needs Investments
The impact of human needs investments from the Response Fund from April-June has been as follows:
- The Response Fund supported about 4,800 meals/food packages that were served/delivered to 1,265 people in 961 households who are experiencing food insecurity, about two-thirds of whom are Jewish.
- 31 unique clients were able to access over $23,000 in cash assistance for pandemic-related hardship, 20 of whom were brand new to JFS.
- The Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry hired new staff to serve in roles typically filled by volunteers who had to stop volunteering due to the pandemic. The pantry was able to continue to serve an average of 163 Jewish households per month, including 12 new Jewish households (in May and June – no religion data is available for April), in addition to many more non-Jewish households.
- 11 new Jewish clients sought therapy from JFS for reasons related to COVID-19 and engaged in 36 hours of counseling provided by JFS therapists.
Due to an influx of public dollars during these first months of the pandemic to help people meet their basic needs (such as higher unemployment benefits, stimulus checks, and increased SNAP benefits), JFS has seen fewer than expected people accessing cash assistance and the food pantry. As the pandemic continues and some of these benefits end, JFS expects that utilization of these services will increase. JFS is also working on delivering community-based mental health education and support, which will help meet our community’s mental health needs in addition to providing counseling.
In addition to the COVID-19 Response Fund, Federation has invested an additional $121,000 from other sources to respond to the crisis. These efforts have included contributing to:
- The St. Louis Community Foundation’s Gateway Resilience Fund
- The St. Louis COVID-19 Regional Response Fund
We have also expedited Chesed Fund dollars to 21 congregations so they can assist their constituents with urgent needs; covered burial costs for those who cannot afford them; and supported our community’s organizational leadership in managing change through this crisis.
“We know that more funding will be necessary as we get through these unprecedented times together,” Herstig says.
And so, Federation continues to assess and respond to the community’s evolving needs. Federation’s second needs assessment since the pandemic began points to areas critical to maintaining an engaged, vibrant, and flourishing St. Louis Jewish community with strong Jewish organizations. Federation is now working with the community to mitigate the economic hardship resulting from COVID-19 through funding, technical non-financial assistance, strategy development, and coordination.
To learn more about the fund and show your support, please visit our COVID-19 Community Response Fund page.