SCHENECTADY — The Schenectady Foundation is increasing support for a community fund that helps food access, housing, family services and more during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Rebuilding Families Fund started off with $100,000 from the foundation in March. Executive Director Robert Carreau said they can now contribute another $50,000 in dollar-for-dollar donation matches. “We’re entirely dedicated to this process and we have to be careful with our own resources of course, but we’re in this one hundred percent,” Carreau said. “We’re going to continue to provide whatever assistance the community needs to see its way through this.”
In March, the foundation helped form the Schenectady Emergency Response Coalition to unify community relief efforts. That coalition includes county government as well as organizations that help the needy like the Schenectady City Mission. Through one unified relief hotline, 518-621-3536, people can call to ask for items and services they need or get information on the coronavirus. Carreau said they’ve taken over 18,000 calls from the community so far, and he doesn’t expect that to stop soon.
“We see that even if the health crisis subsides, and hopefully it will sooner than later, the need of families is going to continue,” said Carreau. “It’s going to have a longer decay time.”
They’ve already committed $227,000 from the Rebuilding Families Fund to various relief organizations like the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York or Schenectady ARC.
“All these organizations are going to have to sort of reimagine how they deliver services in a different way, and it’s not going to cost less, it’s going to cost more,” said Carreau.
The Carlilian Foundation, another philanthropic Schenectady organization, donated $25,000 to the Rebuilding Families Fund. Much of the rest of the funding has come from individuals, Carreau said.
The biggest recipient of the fund has been the Regional Food Bank, which provides the food that gets packed into bags and delivered around Schenectady by members of the National Guard. Now, since the Food Bank is set to receive $4.3 million from the state to buy farm produce, Carreau said the Rebuilding Families Fund may focus on other community needs like housing and childcare.
“We don’t know yet when childcare will be re-opened, or the needs of childcare centers to be prepared with protocols to manage in this post-pandemic world, so that’s going to cost some funding. That’s one of the needs We’ve already funded at the YWCA Schenectady Childcare Program,” said Carreau.
The fund has its origins in 2011 after tropical storms Lee and Irene damaged many Schenectady communities, flooding Rotterdam Junction in particular. Then when a tragic fire destroyed two Jay Street apartment buildings, the Rebuilding Families Fund was used again to help the dozens of people made suddenly homeless.
“We’ve been through the flooding in 2011, we’ve been through the fire; all of that has helped us to be more prepared for a crisis like this, even though this is like none other,” said Carreau. “What’s really enabled the community to come together is just a very high level of trust. That we’ve developed over time amongst our institution and the leaders of our institutions.”