Nonprofit Groups Face Losses, Increase In Demand

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Apr 3, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic is putting a strain on the nonprofit community. And some are feeling the impact as community demands for many services rise.

With the closure of Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity's ReStore locations and the canceling of its spring fundraising event, the nonprofit organization is facing a loss in vital funds.

But it continues to keep its 60-member workforce, including part- and full-time employees, on the books, said Steve Spain, executive director of Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity.

“We’re hopeful. We know we will be able to keep our staff on the payroll for at least the next month, hopefully two," Spain said. "We have put all of our ReStore staff on leave. We are paying them. And we are hopeful that we will be able to ride it out by taking advantage of the CARES Act."

Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity works with families and individuals to support affordable housing needs, in addition to operating stores.

 “The long-term concern for us is that, since we cover all of our administrative costs through the ReStores, and every month they are shut, even if we are able to get reimbursement for staff salaries, that’s $100,000 in money that would have gone to support our operating costs, that we don’t have grants or other means for," Spain said. "So the longer our ReStores are closed, the more impact that will have on our organization.”

On the construction side, Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity continues to work in small groups on repair sites due to Hurricane Florence in September 2018, as well as getting new home constructions to a stopping point, for now.

Direct costs on building a new home is about $100,000, he said, adding that for every month the stores are closed, that could be one fewer house the organization would be able to build in the future.

Some of Habitat’s staff members are working remotely, like many organizations in the area.

United Way of the Cape Fear Area employees are continuing their work remotely, using applications such as Zoom and Slack to operate, said the nonprofit organization’s interim CEO Tommy Taylor.

One of the main things the organization has started to aid in the current crisis is a COVID-19 fund to help provide for the needs of other nonprofits, such as the Salvation Army.

The United Way's board approved the reallocation of $50,000 for containment and quarantine. The organization has started to check in with the Salvation Army for people who need assistance with quarantine. That has been some of the initial financial assistance United Way of the Cape Fear Area has provided during the crisis.

“We’ve also worked with the hospital and county and tried to make sure, through the health department and the Emergency Operations Center, that we’re able to help quarantine people that don’t have anywhere to go," Taylor said. "So that involved a lot of different negotiations with the different hotel and motel chains to make sure that we had somewhere for them to go.”

Salvation Army of Cape Fear's Maj. Mark Craddock said a coalition has been formed with several organizations, including United Way and Good Shepherd Center, to help find places for homeless individuals to quarantine.

The Salvation Army shelter is operating under normal infectious disease protocol, which means the organization has had to reduce its shelter population. And on its downtown site, there has been an outside shelter tent with 25 beds. That tent is currently full.

The Salvation Army is operating its social services offices by telephone, and its food pantry remains open. 

The coalition is continuing talks Monday as it continues to evaluate providing services to those who are tested for the virus or symptomatic, and how they can best serve those who are asymptomatic.

"I don't have good answers for that right now. I can tell you it would take a significant donor to step up before we could expand another 10 [beds]. The hotels aren't exactly inexpensive options, but they're good under the circumstances," Craddock said.

United Way of the Cape Fear also plans to raise more funds and do more to support the community in the changing crisis situation, Taylor said

“We’re definitely not slowing down the campaign, but we’re shifting here so we can meet this need. We know a lot of nonprofits are stepping up. They are having to operate differently. And not all of them are going to be able to keep up this level,” Taylor said. “And then the need of individuals that are now displaced from work, we anticipate a huge need for financial assistance.”

StepUp Wilmington, which normally conducts training and services in person, has had to shift the way it operates either over the phone or virtually, said Will Rikard, the nonprofit organization's executive director.

The organization is going to start online training, but that proves a challenge for the group for some of those that it serves, who don't have access to the internet or a computer.

Case management is a big core of what StepUp Wilmington does in terms of providing support, guidance and training to individuals who are looking for work and looking for financial and economic stability, he said.

The organization's 13 full-time employees have been working remotely. Typically that work is done in-person, but right now that management, as well as job leads and other work, is being conducted over the phone.

"There are still some folks hiring. We've had a couple of people get hired during this time," Rikard said. "But the jobs have shifted and a lot of places are not even open. So it's changing weekly in terms of how we adapt to that."

In addition, over a quarter of the organization's graduates have lost wages because they couldn't work or have been let go from their jobs, he said.

The group typically trains between 25 and 30 people a month, but they are not able to keep up that pace.

"Right now that flow has sort of stopped and we are managing what we have," Rikard said.

The organization is also preparing for a surge of needs that will come in the months ahead as unemployment rises, he said. 

And with the schools out Nourish NC, a nonprofit organization that provides children with food through various programs, has handed off thousands of meals to children in need over the past two weeks. And it's preparing for more as the crisis goes on.

Nourish NC has opened a drive-thru window for kids for its Backpack Program, which is now up to 1,500 kids, said Steve McCrossan, executive director of Nourish NC. And the need will continue to rise.

"There's no such thing as too small," he said of donations. "And food drives have certainly dried up. You know people aren't doing those huge food drives you used to do at your company business," McCrossan said, "or church anymore ... that's declined dramatically. So right now for us it's about buying large quantities of food.

"And what we're preparing for is now through Sept. 1. We don't feel school is going to come back. We think it's going to get worse before it gets better. And so our job is to make sure that we always have good food for our kids."
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