The last several weeks have been an uncertain and difficult time for many, as precautions surrounding the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, have increased at a steady rate. And most recently, Larimer County officially issued a “Stay at Home” order effective between March 26 and April 17, in which residents must remain at home with the exception of going to the grocery store and accessing essential services.
In the midst of uncertainty and overwhelming needs in Larimer County, a number of incredible philanthropic community organizations and nonprofits have teamed up to get us through this unprecedented time. These individuals and organizations have worked tirelessly to provide assistance to those in need, including basic human needs like food services, and help with economic effects experienced in our small business community.
The collaborative, community-oriented spirit of Northern Colorado has always been strong — and it shines even brighter in times like these. Join us as we celebrate the many incredible relief efforts in Larimer County. Plus, there are a few ways you can get involved if you’re able, including both volunteer and donation opportunities. Because at the end of the day, we’re all in this together.
Residents Nick Christensen and Gordan Thibedeau have formed the Larimer County Community Support Task Force in order to support both nonprofits and businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. The two have served in community service for many years, including leadership positions at the United Way of Larimer County. Nick Christensen is currently the Sheriff’s Office Advisor and Gordan Thibedeau is the former president and CEO of United Way of Larimer County.
The task force met with Larimer County commissioners on Tuesday, March 24 and shared their ideas and plans to foster collaboration amongst the county in the coming days.
The meeting notes read: “We have convened and are facilitating discussions among the county’s chambers of commerce, economic development offices, social services agencies (represented by United Way), and philanthropic organizations on how best we can cooperatively address critical needs in our community. The needs are great and varied and this is an ongoing incident that will take time to resolve. The leaders and staffs of these organizations are the experts at what they do, and actively engaged in shaping and implementing a variety of efforts to begin to address these requirements. Our roles have been to merely convene these leaders and foster collaborative, county-wide discussions, and information sharing, as this crisis evolves. The task force is comprised of a diverse group of service entities working cooperatively in response to a unique and complex challenge to our community as part of the response to this worldwide pandemic.”
The Food Bank for Larimer County “ensures that those in our community who are hungry have convenient access to free, healthy and nutritious food.” And during the COVID-19 crisis, the food bank is working harder than ever to ensure that all those in need have access to food during this unprecedented time, especially the most vulnerable in our population.
The food bank has been operating under a modified distribution process in order to provide a safe environment for their staff, volunteers and food recipients. Their food share pantries have converted to a drive-up model to limit contact and both pantries are reducing their hours and days of operation. The Loveland pantry is open from Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the Fort Collins pantry is open Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
In response to school closures in Larimer County, the food bank has set up established meal sites where kids can access free grab-and-go meals. See the full list of locations here.
The food bank could use our support now more than ever before, so they can continue their operations and assist those most in need during this difficult time. A financial donation is one of the easiest ways to support their efforts, as they adapt to the inevitable changes resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak. They have also experienced a significant decline in volunteers as the pandemic has escalated. Learn more about volunteering and sign up if you are interested in serving the community in this way.
Graphic Courtesy of United Way of Larimer County
The Community Foundation of Northern Colorado has joined forces with the United Way of Larimer County to establish the Northern Colorado COVID-19 Response Fund. This effort will provide leadership and collaborative funding for those who face the greatest need at this time. The funding will go towards local nonprofit organizations working with people disproportionately affected by the consequences of COVID-19 — specifically, human service organizations that address food insecurity for youth and the elderly.
According to their website, “as a basis for this initiative, the Foundation is contributing $50,000 dollars and the United Way is contributing $100,000. Both organizations are eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions from private foundations, corporate partners, and individual donors.”
Both organizations will administer grants from the fund to nonprofit organizations throughout the county during the course of the crisis, based on input from community volunteers sitting on the grant selection committee.
United Way of Larimer County’s website has become the county-wide hub for resources and volunteer opportunities. It has tons of resource lists updated daily in partnership with the City of Fort Collins and Larimer County officials. They are also maintaining an up-to-date list of volunteer needs with more than 25 nonprofit agencies in the county, including both in-person and virtual volunteer opportunities. And in the near future, United Way of Larimer County will host monthly blood drives and become a donation drop-off facility accepting a variety of donations from their agency partners.
Photo Courtesy of Meals on Wheels
Even when there is not a global pandemic underway, Meals on Wheels does an incredible service for the elderly in our communities — and across the globe. This program delivers meals to individuals at home who are unable to purchase or prepare their own meals, many of whom are elderly individuals. Meals on Wheels of Loveland and Berthoud (MOWLB) was named “Nonprofit of the Year” by the Loveland Reporter-Herald in 2018 — and in 2020, they are certainly stepping up to help during this unprecedented time.
They are continuing their meal services, with adjustments as needed, so their clients receive nutritious meals and remain healthy in their homes. Meals on Wheels has remained vigilant about maintaining a clean and healthy work environment for everyone in their community, including their clients, volunteers and staff.
Many of their volunteers fall under the “at-risk” category, which has presented a particularly unique challenge for the organization. Consider volunteering with MOWLB or donating to assist with the incredible work they are doing.
We can’t forget the major economic effects of the pandemic, and the many local businesses who are facing uncertainty and unknowns at this time. The Fort Collins and Loveland Chambers of Commerce are working together with economic development officials to offer support to local businesses.
According to the Loveland Reporter-Herald, “They are sharing information on loans available from the Small Business Administration, are helping businesses apply for the loans, are working to help with unemployment applications and are looking at creating short-term funds to help these employers stay afloat until the federal loans come through and the economy is again flowing.”
This “bridge funding” could be just enough to keep businesses afloat while the pandemic continues.
Let us know if there are any additional organizations and relief efforts in Larimer County. We’d love to know other ways we can help our community and those in need during this time.