Featuring Guest Contributor: Jasmine Guest, Program Officer
The photo above was taken at the Foundation’s Annual Nonprofit Thankful for You Breakfast Celebration in November 2019.
2020 has been a year of adaption. Before COVID-19 hit, the Foundation prepared to announce its yearly Spring Responsive Grant Cycle. The Community Leadership team was ready to assist with the general programmatic needs that are seen in most of our grant cycles.
As a grantmaker and program officer, you must always be ready for the unknown. None of us could have prepared for the immediate needs that 2020 would bring.
But then COVID-19 struck, and as a team we had to take a step back, listen with great empathy and be flexible with grants. Our grant guidelines had to change because the needs of nonprofit organizations changed so quickly.
We made it to May and were once again adjusting. This time, it was learning how to be responsive and effective from the safety of home. Because of the increased community need, the Foundation revised its Spring Grant Cycle to be solely focused on COVID-19 relief and immediate assistance. This grant opportunity was dedicated to Spartanburg County nonprofits needing additional capacity to maintain operations throughout the pandemic. General operating support was not generally included in funding opportunities before this year.
One day I was on the phone with the Executive Director of the Cancer Association of Spartanburg and Cherokee Counties. She spoke about the needs of cancer patients and having to reconfigure the space of the Cancer Association building to ensure the safety of their clients who are immunocompromised. The Cancer Association of Spartanburg and Cherokee Counties was a recipient of a $19,295 grant to provide nutritional supplements and fuel cards to Spartanburg County cancer patients and families and to modify their office to comply with social distancing guidelines.
In talking to the director, she spoke about the needs of her clients with such compassion and shared how much COVID-19 scared cancer patients because of their increased susceptibility to the virus.
Not long after that phone call, I received a voicemail from a lady with such desperation in her voice. I could tell she needed help and was reaching out for it. I quickly called her back and spoke with her over the phone.
She had just been diagnosed with cancer, and I was the very first person that she told.
She had not told her family, her closest friend, or even her spouse.
She needed support and trusted me with this information. I felt not only honored, but also a duty of responsibility to ensure her needs were met.
She was looking ahead to chemotherapy but was unsure of what specific resources were out there for her, and she did not know where to turn.
I told her she called just in time because of the grant given to the Cancer Association of Spartanburg and Cherokee Counties.
It meant so much as a program officer to be able to assist someone in a very vulnerable time in her life. This woman stepped out of her comfort zone to ask for assistance, having not been in this situation before. To know that resources are available, and that we can share those resources, is what community work is all about.
We get calls all the time, especially during this year of COVID, and sometimes we do not have direct resources to share with those asking for assistance. However, it was so rewarding to share this resource with her and point her in a direction of support as she began her battle with cancer.
As Program Officer, I understand that each phone call deserves respect because you never know how close someone is to giving up. Hearing the sigh of relief when the caller knows there is help available, brings a sense of fulfillment to my role at the Foundation.
I know that 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone. I hope we all give each other grace when needed and remember that we never know what another is going through.
These times aren’t perfect and neither are we. Let’s honor the humanity in one another this holiday season, and give others the help that we are able to share.
If you’re looking for Spartanburg nonprofit resources, contact Jasmine Guest, Program Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org.