The coronavirus is causing severe headaches for nonprofit organizations because of the cancellation of activities large and small, and community leaders and government officials are looking for ways to help out.
Pinellas Community Foundation CEO Duggan Cooley said March 16 the charitable organization is working with other fund providers in the community to mobilize a response fund so that it will be known as a trusted resource in the community through which people can make donations.
“We are in a listening mode right now,” said Cooley about the foundation, which distributes donor-funded grants to more than 130 charitable agencies.
One of the biggest concerns for PCF is making sure enough food is available in the community, especially for the elderly. Cooley said newspaper articles have reported that the number of volunteers is declining for programs such as Meals on Wheels. He believes that’s because people are concerned about being exposed to the virus.
“We want to make sure in those systems there is enough food available for people who need it because we already know there is an economic impact from the virus, and that people are having hours cut at work or there is not a full availability of hours from their employers right now,” Cooley said. “And that can cause strain.”
The list of the events and activities canceled ranges from the pet friendly Mutt Madness in Dunedin to an Easter egg hunt in Indian Rocks Beach to Largo’s McGough Nature Park’s Feed the Critters Food Truck Rally.
As a way for the community to respond, people can continue to donate to the nonprofits they have been supporting, Cooley said, adding that the need is still there.
“So if they were planning on going to an event or paying to go to an event or a gala or some kind of special gathering, if they would be so kind as to give that money to that charity anyway, they will make sure it will be put to good use,” Cooley said.
A call for blood donors
Susan Forbes, a spokeswoman for OneBlood, said almost 700 blood drives in the nonprofit organization’s service area have been canceled.
“It’s unprecedented of what’s happening here, the amount of blood drives that are being canceled across the nation. If we continue to see it at this rate, we are going to quickly approach a critical issue across the nation unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before,” said Forbes, from OneBlood’s hub in Orlando. “This is something none of us have ever seen.”
The coronavirus is only heightening the need for a ready blood supply, she said.
“What’s happening is that OneBlood and blood centers across the nation are experiencing a rapid cancellation of blood drives, and it’s a significant drop in donations so that is really limiting the ability for the nation’s blood supply to be adequately replenished,” Forbes said.
She encouraged all people who are healthy and eligible to donate to do so, along with asking businesses to consider hosting blood drives.
“The blood supply is something that always being replenished. Blood that is donated today will be processed and tested tonight,” she said.
She also emphasized that it is safe to donate blood and OneBlood is highly regulated by the Federal Drug Administration. All facilities are clean, employees wear medical gloves, wipe down donor-touched areas with disinfectants and take other steps to ensure facilities are sanitary.
Among other steps OneBlood is taking to ensure safe conditions at blood drives is that only a certain number of donors will be allowed on the bus at one time. OneBlood is also encouraging people to make appointments.
“This is another way to help us so ‘we can help you type of thing’ and that you can keep the social distancing,” Forbes said.
Here and there
Even small communities have canceled numerous activities that are affected by the virus, such as Rotary Runs the Beach, citywide garage sales and Greenfest in Indian Rocks Beach.
Though events in April have been canceled, IRB Mayor Cookie Kennedy said the city staff is doing the best they can for the residents. City Manager Gregg Mims is in constant touch with other officials, including at the federal level.
“This way everybody is in constant communications with each other to do the very best job to remain alert but also mindful of the situation and also to keep our residents calm and do the very best we can for them,” Kennedy said.
She hopes to reach out to local organizations such as Action 2000, the IRB Homeowners Association and the Indian Rocks Rotary Club to coordinate efforts to put some information together on social media to help others, such as the elderly with special needs.
“I was thinking it might be a good idea to have an information site with our groups to coordinate some volunteers who might help them ... to show them how they can get their groceries brought in. If they need to have a doctor’s appointment or such and their children aren’t here,” Kennedy said.
Some organizations and entities have posted notices on their websites about the cancellations of events.
The Suncoast Animal League’s annual fundraising events, “Mutt Madness” and “Ride 4 the Animals,” which were slated for March 14 at Highlander Park in Dunedin, were canceled. The organizers met with city officials to discuss growing concerns over the coronavirus and large public gatherings.
“While we greatly depend on events like Mutt Madness and Ride 4 the Animals to allow us to find forever homes (for) our shelter animals, and to raise funds to care for them, we must keep the safety and well-being of our volunteers, staff and supporters in mind,” the league said on a website about the event.
Seminole’s annual Pow-Wow Festival and Parade, also planned for that weekend, were postponed, hopefully until later in the year, said Mayor Leslie Waters.
“Our main concern is the health and well-being of our residents,” she said.
Eric MacNeill, president of the Dunedin Scottish Arts Foundation, said the organization is looking to reschedule the Dunedin Highland Games in the fall, possibly merging it with the Dunedin Celtic Music and Beer Festival. The event is a fundraiser for the foundation, attracting athletes and spectators from the United States and abroad.
“I appreciate all the help we have had from the city and the community,” he said at the Dunedin City Commission meeting March 17.
At that meeting, City Manager Jennifer Bramley injected some humor on a discussion about the pandemic and the special events that could be curtailed.
Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski noted that the Scottish American Society, another local organization, has several activities that could be canceled — including a whiskey-tasting event.
“No. That has to happen,” Bramley said, with a smile.