Journal Opinion: Philanthropy Amid COVID-19

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – This edition of The Business Journal celebrates philanthropy. 

The topic coincides with the annual commemoration of National Philanthropy Day, Nov. 15.

It is a time to reflect on the vital roles that individuals, businesses, foundations and nonprofit organizations play in supporting our community and its quality of life.

Not surprisingly, many philanthropic efforts this year focused on addressing the social and economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The virus spurred three of the Mahoning Valley’s major foundations – the Youngstown Foundation, the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley and the Raymond John Wean Foundation – to establish the Mahoning Valley COVID-19 Crisis Relief program.

By using a joint application, each foundation addressed funding requests as they were received. This enabled them to meet community needs more quickly and collaborate on certain applications.

Because the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce is a 501(c)6 entity, which inhibited its efforts to get money and personal protective equipment to those in need, it established a separate 501(c)3 entity, the Shenango Valley Chamber Charitable Fund.

This fund’s fiscal agent is the Community Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio, which this summer hosted a virtual giving week to solicit contributions for nonprofit organizations unable to hold their traditional fundraising events.

The work of organizations and individuals across the region to address the needs arising from the pandemic influenced the Mahoning-Shenango Chapter of the Association of Fundraising professionals to honor COVID-19 Heroes during its Nov. 13 luncheon to mark National Philanthropy Day.

This issue profiles just a few of the 22 honorees. Among these heroes are Akron Children’s Hospital Boardman Campus, the Cafaro Foundation, the Rotary Clubs of Canfield and Poland, and Dr. Rajiv Raneja, who arranged for meals to be distributed to front-line workers and first responders.      

If this year has taught us anything, one of the key lessons is that we in the Mahoning and Shenango valleys are stronger together. Another is that the situation could have been worse had we not reached beyond ourselves to help those whose needs are greater than our own.  

There’s no question that 2020 is a challenging year. And it’s uncertain how soon things will improve. Many people who remain out of work because their businesses can’t operate at full capacity or because they have to serve as caregivers will face a more daunting holiday season than before.

Many needs remain to be filled. If history is any indication, the people in this region will step up.

The pandemic has affected many aspects of our lives. As disruptive as it’s been, it cannot lay a glove on our philanthropic spirit.

That’s worth celebrating year round.