The Middle Tennessee community has been hit with a deadly and devastating one-two-three punch: first the eight early March tornadoes, then the steadily threatening effects of the worldwide COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, then the free-falling economic disaster that threatens to outlast them all.
Our friends and neighbors are suffering and will be suffering.
We are all suffering.
The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee began our work as a disaster recovery partner with Metro Nashville’s Office of Emergency Management in the early hours of March 3, just hours after the tornadoes hit the region, as well as with officials in Wilson and Putnam counties.
The Middle Tennessee Emergency Response Fund quickly was established for both immediate relief and ongoing recovery efforts as issues are identified. During this initial relief phase (through April 15), priority for grants will be given to organizations providing services and resources to meet the most immediate needs.
Online donors have crossed the 21,000 mark. The Foundation has made initial first-response grants of more than $2.1 million to scores of area nonprofits.
We continue to make grants to affected communities to provide relief and recovery. Nonprofits, with the help of these grants, have been able to react quickly and responsibly.
We deeply appreciate the many donors who have supported the Middle Tennessee Emergency Response Fund, no matter the size of the gift. Each and every dollar matters. For those interested in keeping up with our disaster recovery work and a list of CFMT grantees funded to provide essential services to those impacted by the March 3 tornadoes, please visit our dedicated website TornadoResponse.com.
We continue to receive generous contributions from near and far, and welcome them online at the Middle Tennessee Emergency Response Fund and offline at The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, P.O. Box 440225, Nashville, TN 37244.
We're not alone in this work. From city and county government to the smallest churches, to food banks and housing solutions, we're working alongside important partners that exist to ease our collective suffering.
Thanks to cooperation and coordination through disasters, we're building a unified front, tackling disasters through collaboration and cooperation.
As has been the case with our courageous doctors, nurses, grocery store employees, truckers and many others, coronavirus has reshaped, NOT stopped, our important work to support the Middle Tennessee community.
We want you to know we are open for business, even though our office will not be open in our usual form.
Donors wanting to make gifts are encouraged to do so online or by mail, not the usual pop-in visit we enjoy so much. Daily mail and deliveries continue to be accepted, although at arms-length distance. These protocols go against our nature of being the connector, but we know we must do our part for the health and welfare of our community.
Many have inquired whether we have established a fund for COVID-19 response. So that we may continue focusing our energy on Tornado Response, we are happy that United Way of Greater Nashville has accepted that important role to partner with Mayor John Cooper’s office to establish the COVID-19 Response Fund.
Hospitality Industry Relief Efforts
We also are working closely with our nonprofit and civic partners to help aid Middle Tennessee’s tourism, arts and entertainment and hospitality industries and to determine where we might make grants to nonprofits that are directly supporting the many thousands of workers suddenly unemployed, those who have made the Nashville area Music City have suffered mightily with tornado damage and making resource referrals to those impacted by shutdowns and postponements due to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.
Those affected include the Middle Tennessean’s who work at festivals, bars, nightclubs, concert touring, restaurants, convention business, the hotel industry, art galleries, performing arts groups, museums, and movie theaters. Canceled events have represented a staggering financial loss of $100-plus millions of dollars and counting in direct spending, the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. said.
We look forward to staying connected, but know we will enjoy it more when we can get back to shaking your hand and offering the occasional hug.
We will fight back, and we will heal. Together as one.
Ellen Lehman is president of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. The Community Foundation exists to promote and facilitate giving in the 40 counties of Middle Tennessee and beyond. For more information, call 615-321-4939 or visit www.cfmt.org.