Building the future of Jefferson County

Perspective: Siobhan Canty, Jefferson Community Foundation

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Jefferson County is in a pivotal moment.  On one hand we have great challenges to face. Over 4,000 people have lost their jobs. Requests for emergency financial help from local assistance providers have tripled. More than 200 students here are without access to the internet and are therefore unable to continue their education. Events that bring tens of thousands of people here have been canceled, causing millions of dollars of lost revenue for businesses. It is a scary and uncertain time.

And yet in front of us is an opportunity to not only rebound but to build a robust and resilient future and people all over Jefferson County are stepping up to build it. On March 13 the Jefferson Community Foundation launched the COVID Response and Recovery Fund. Within 10 weeks, 494 people had donated $481,227. to the fund and $396,410 of that had been distributed to local response efforts being led by community members. The foundation is not charging any administrative fees for managing this special initiative, which means every dollar donated to the fund is going directly into the community.

Here is a sample of community-driven ideas that have started with support from the fund:

Connected Students Initiative, working to ensure internet access and computers are available to every student in the county;

Online farmers markets, making it possible for farmers to sell their produce while keeping community safe;

Rapid Response Rental Assistance Fund, to keep recent job losses from turning into insurmountable debt; and

Neighbor Loaves, making 250 loaves of fresh bread available each week to families in Chimacum by connecting local grain growers and bakeries to the School Meal Program.

This is the kind of spontaneous action and creative thinking that will continue to see our community through the immediate crisis and allow us to envision and build a new future for Jefferson County — one that is local, sustainable, creative and entrepreneurial.

Every day, the small team at Jefferson Community Foundation is out preparing the ground for resilience like this. We work closely with local nonprofits to understand their work and maintain a landscape view of the obstacles and opportunities facing the people of Jefferson County. We share this knowledge with local donors so they can do their best charitable giving individually and as a community, making decisions that build legacies. We connect people, organizations, ideas and resources so we can work together as a community to achieve big things. The COVID Response and Recovery Fund is one of 52 funds we administer.

We have a long way to go, Jefferson County. This crisis has exposed significant gaps across our community that we need to work on, things like access to online education, childcare for working families and scalable local food supply chains. We also have new opportunities to meet, like putting our local entrepreneurs at the center of an economic recovery strategy that will lessen our dependency on tourism.

Thank you for supporting the Jefferson County COVID Response and Recovery Fund. We will continue to accept donations and make grants to local organizations on the frontlines for as long as is needed. To learn more or make a donation, go to www.JCFgives.org or mail a check to Covid Fund at 201b West Patison St. Pt Hadlock, WA 98339.

(Siobhan Canty is the president & CEO of Jefferson Community Foundation.)

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