As the COVID-19 crisis progresses, we continue to hear inspiring stories about community mobilization, emergency responses, and community foundations creating innovative solutions.

Across Canada, community foundations have confronted the pandemic with a willingness to provide help and support for those in need. This crisis has shown us the power of an engaged community, and the diverse emergency responses from community foundations have proved the importance of grassroots initiatives in local regions and municipalities.

The following is part of an ongoing series that spotlights the emergency response efforts of local community foundations across Canada. In addition to these features, we have also compiled a map sharing the mobilization efforts from community foundations across the country. 

When Nneka Otogbolu accepted the role of Director of Communications and Equity Strategy at Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF), she never imagined her first challenge would involve a global pandemic. Her first week with the foundation was the same week WHO announced the pandemic. Since then, she has been actively involved in the community foundation’s Rapid Response Fund to address COVID-19 impacts in Edmonton. 

“Just let your values guide you,” said Otogbolu while explaining her approach to developing a communications blueprint for an unprecedented time. 

A key first step was shifting all the facts from the noise. Particularly in the first weeks, where the afternoon could look drastically different from the morning, it was vital to continuously factcheck to ensure that the foundation was sharing the most up to date, accurate information with Edmontonians. 

When brainstorming the Rapid Response Fund, the community foundation asked itself what could compliment the incoming support from the federal government. Recognizing the massive financial losses local charities were already experiencing, the foundation wanted to provide funding that could reach people quickly. To that end, it decided to create the fund and provide unrestricted funding to local community partners, many of whom will help flow that funding to local people in need. 

An example is an unrestricted grant to the Edmonton Arts Council. The community foundation has contributed to the Creator’s Reserve, which provides grants of $5,000 to artists to create new art or revive existing pieces. Specific funding is allocated for Indigenous artists and artists from equity-seeking groups. 

For Otogbolu and ECF, this is just the beginning. She sees the Rapid Response Fund as a means to engage with new and existing partners to help them provide immediate support, but is also keeping an eye to the future, recognizing the long-term impact the pandemic poses.