The Rapid Relief Fund will provide financial assistance to Mustard Seed, the Stan Hagen Centre for Families, the Salvation Army Addiction and Rehabilitation Centre, the Food Share Network and the Coalition of Neighbourhood Houses Capital Region. (Twitter/TranBC)

Greater Victoria raises $1M in 36 hours for those in need

Funds will go to five organizations dealing with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic

Robert Jawl, a representative of the Jawl Foundation, says “we’re in this together and we’re going to get through this together” was the key sentiment during a meeting with community partners discussing how organizations could come together to offer relief during these turbulent times.

The Rapid Relief Fund launched on March 21, and within 36 hours reached its goal of $1 million. The fund, set up by the Victoria Foundation, the Times Colonist and the Jawl family, was kick-started by a $100,000 donation from the Jawl Foundation and a $250,000 contribution from the Victoria Foundation. Since the initial launch, a number of other media partners have come on board, including Black Press Media.

The Rapid Relief Fund will initially support five local organizations addressing issues around food security, preventing homelessness, mental health support and accessing health care during the ongoing pandemic.

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Jawl says the goal of the fund was to provide a place for financial donations to be efficiently deployed to groups working on the frontlines dealing with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. “[Along with] instilling at the community level a real sense of optimism, hope and collectivist attitude to really make it clear that we all have a part to play in whatever manner we’re able to,” he says.

The first $1 million raised will go towards the Mustard Seed, the Stan Hagen Centre for Families, the Salvation Army Addiction and Rehabilitation Centre, the Food Share Network and the Coalition of Neighbourhood Houses Capital Region.

“The pool of people depending upon these institutions dramatically expanded overnight and I think the call to action of these organizations is immense so the least we can do as a community is help where we can,” says Jawl.

Both the Food Share Network — which coordinates food distribution to meet the needs of low-income, food-insecure people — and the Coalition of Neighbourhood Houses Capital Region — an organization that provides neighborhood-based programs and resources, such as child care, parenting education and senior programs — are collaborative networks of a number of organizations.

READ ALSO: Greater Victoria residents find compassion and community amid COVID-19 isolation

“That’s an important distinction, even though it says five [organizations] you’re really talking about 80 plus agencies [who will receive that] initial donation,” says Rob Janus, director of communications for the Victoria Foundation.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the fund was at about $1.2 million. According to Janus, an advisory group of experts will make recommendations on the best way to spend the next million dollars.

“As money comes in we’re going to try and get it out the door as quickly as possible,” he says. “And we’re just going to keep going, the next million and the next million — as long as there’s a need we’re going to keep running this program.”

Jawl says the first 36 hours of the fund operating was “incredibly humbling,” with more than 3,000 individual donations coming in, averaging $60 to $70 per donation. “[That] speaks volumes about the people who are here in Victoria,” he says.

While the donations will provide some financial relief to those organizations, Jawl says he hopes it also provides a sense of comfort and hope. “There is help on the way,” he says.

To make a donation to the Rapid Relief Fund visit victoriafoundation.bc.ca/rapid-relief-fund.

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