Luzerne Foundation President and CEO Charles M. Barber rings a handbell to get the crowd’s attention.

Community foundations like the Scranton Area Community Foundation strive on being there when there is a great need.

The pandemic has tested just about every sector of the economic system, but regardless, President and CEO Laura Ducceschi said they’ve been able help just about everyone.

“Our board decided to begin an initiative to allocate additional resources and fundraise for a quick distribution of funds,” she said of the NEPA Covid-19 Relief Fund that began in March. “Being really proactive in the beginning helped us raise a specific amount of money and pass that out.”

Since beginning the fund, Ducceschi said in about one month, the SACF raised $1.1 million and has been disbursing the funds to those in need. Thus far, $1.03 million has been distributed. The SACN has an annual distribution of $3.5 million.

“People stepped up. Foundations stepped up. Corporations stepped up,” she said.

The money went to a variety of sources in six grant cycles – everything from those helping with food insecurity to domestic violence to community arts groups. They also gave out money for personal protective equipment, homelessness and virtual learning.

She expects the need to continue.

“It was across the board,” she said. “We didn’t restrict anything. We took a community-wide focus.”

Ducceschi said in some ways, the onslaught of giving has exceeded expectations without the upfront costs of putting together fundraisers.

“We realized quickly that this was going to be a draining year on everyone, including our nonprofit partners,” said Ducceschi. “So many nonprofits have had an increase in their services. And at the same time, they can’t hold the types of events typically hold to bring in that sort of income.”

The coronavirus impact on nonprofits throughout Pennsylvania has been devastating. A statewide survey conducted by The Fourth Economy found nine out of ten nonprofits have been affected with 23% reporting an increased demand for services.

Charles Barber, president and CEO of The Luzerne Foundation, said the pandemic has proved to be an “extreme challenge” for every charity and have not been able to fulfil each request.

“We are learning to adapt to new reality,” said Barber.

Barber said since March hunger has remained the biggest source of need.

“The food banks and programs that provide meals have been the biggest heroes in this,” he said. “They’ve really stepped up, but their volunteer bases have been affected. They are retired or elderly and they may be susceptible to the coronavirus and they may not be able to volunteer as much. That affects everything.”

Barber said many nonprofits aren’t getting what they are fulling asking for, but he said to many it’s a help.

“It’s something,” he said.

Barber said even in the best of times, the demands can far exceed the need.

“We have had to decline some grant applications not because of their worthiness, but because we don’t have the money to help,” he said. “We’ve got make strategic decisions on how to help and who to help. Giving $100 to everybody doesn’t really help anybody. It becomes a question of how you prioritize the need.”

Barber said The Luzerne Foundation received grants from other foundations to redistribute to community organizations.

He said contributions are ‘down modestly’ from normal levels, but he said as quickly as money comes in, the money leaves to help charities in need.

“These challenges are going to continue,” Ducceschi said. “Virtual fundraising has been a big learning curve, but many nonprofits have been able to embrace it forge a path forward. We will always be here for them.”

“We all have to work together,” he said. “It’s not something that’s going to away anytime soon.”

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