Officials with United Way of the Ohio Valley on Tuesday highlighted the success of the Green River Area COVID-19 Response Fund (GRACRF) that has helped thousands of people across the seven-county GRADD region during the pandemic.
The Response Fund was implemented in March 2020 and involved collaboration between United Way, the City of Owensboro and Daviess County Fiscal Court — all of which worked with food pantries, homeless shelters, utility companies and more to provide financial assistance to those negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to United Way Executive Vice President Doug Eberhart, funding is still being allocated to a number of organizations and individuals in need across the area.
“When the pandemic [started], grocery store shelves were bare,” Eberhart noted. “There were lines going out the door. We realized our food pantries and food banks were going to be overtaxed.”
After securing CARES Act funding and donating hundreds of thousands of their own government dollars toward the Response Fund, city and county officials allowed the United Way to disperse the money where it was most needed.
Eberhart said it was clear that food and sheltering were the two biggest needs facing the community in the beginning.
“We worked together to solve the issues of food. What came out of that was to realize how fortunate we are to be living in our community,” he said. “Everyone started worrying less about their organization and themselves and more about, ‘How do we respond as a community?’”
Food delivery programs allowed certified drivers who’d been laid off to operate the vehicles needed to deliver food to residents, Eberhart said.
As the needs facing the community progressed, Eberhart and his team began focusing on addressing the needs of the most vulnerable citizens by implementing utility and rental assistance programs.
“We’ve had hundreds of families be able to stay in their homes and pay their bills,” Eberhart said. “The Green River Response Fund is why we’ve been able to do that.”
He went on to say that the economic issues facing Owensboro-Daviess County weren’t nearly as bad as in other places because of the leadership that came together to create the COVID Response Fund
United Way CEO & President David Ross agreed, saying the Response Fund’s success stemmed from having two government entities that were willing to work together for a common purpose.
“With the strength of getting the city and county on board, our fund grew faster than any fund in the state of Kentucky,” Ross added. “This isn’t over. We’re going to continue to do our best to help you all, and this community, in any way we can.”