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MassMutual’s $1M donation gets new COVID-19 response fund rolling

  • Jim Ayres, vice president for programs and strategy at the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. Staff FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 3/19/2020 6:17:05 PM
Modified: 3/19/2020 6:16:53 PM

SPRINGFIELD — With a $1 million contribution from MassMutual, the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts established a COVID-19 response fund Wednesday to help direct money to area nonprofits that are assisting vulnerable communities during the crisis.

The community foundation also contributed $500,000 to the response fund, which will provide resources to organizations in the Pioneer Valley that are helping those most affected by the coronavirus pandemic, such as the elderly, those without stable housing, families needing food and those with underlying health issues.

“This is a crisis at a scale we haven’t seen before because it affects every single person in the community,” said Jim Ayres, vice president for programs and strategy at the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. “It’s a very challenging time for nonprofits.”

According to a press release, Big Y, bankESB, Greenfield Cooperative Bank/Northampton Cooperative Bank and PeoplesBank have also committed to donating to the fund. As of Thursday, Ayres said the fund has $1.6 million in donations, and the public is encouraged to donate as well.

“During this time of uncertainty and disruption in our daily lives, we hope that this important, cross-collaborative initiative will help provide community members and organizations with the resources and support they need,” Roger Crandall, chair, president and CEO of MassMutual, said in a statement.

Ayres said this isn’t the first time the community foundation has provided relief to the community in time of crisis. He pointed to the 2011 tornado that devastated Springfield and the influx of Puerto Ricans seeking shelter after Hurricane Maria as examples of when the foundation undertook similar efforts.

Founded in 1990, the community foundation administers a charitable endowment of around $173 million in 609 funds across Hampshire, Hampden and Franklin counties, according to a statement.

Disbursement from the new response fund will be done in multiple stages, Ayres said, starting with reaching out to organizations “on the front line” in the coronavirus crisis. He said this includes giving monetary flexibility to groups supporting the affected communities already mentioned, as well as those who don’t speak English, those struggling with addiction and those with mental illnesses.

Usually, funding is through an application process, Ayres said. But since the COVID-19 pandemic is changing so rapidly, Ayres said “we need to do this quickly.” The foundation will instead decide which nonprofits get money within the next several days.

After this first stage, Ayres said, the community foundation will take a broader look and see what some nonprofits “need to do to remain functioning and solvent.”

Members of the public can donate to the new fund, Ayres said, providing them with “the opportunity to put their dollars at work to help the community.” Those interested in donating can visit communityfoundation.org, or email donorservices@communityfoundation.org.

“We know there are many stretched organizations in the community,” Ayres said. “This is a way we can get dollars in the hands of some critical organizations.”

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