Charities serving heroes in new ways amid COVID-19
By ROBIN RAND AND BRANDON BLACK | Special to Stars and Stripes | Published: May 27, 2020
Stars and Stripes is making stories on the coronavirus pandemic available free of charge. See other free reports here. Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter here. Please support our journalism with a subscription.
The new coronavirus has fundamentally altered the way of life for millions of Americans and citizens around the world.
In a career spanning four decades as an officer in the United States Air Force, the magnitude of this crisis is unlike anything I have witnessed. While I’ve dealt with a fair share of crises in times of peace and war that demanded the highest level of leadership and decision making, the coronavirus is unlike any other; it is an enemy whose rate of infections are as unbiased as its worldwide transmission.
Like many service-based nonprofits and charities that have pivoted in their business model to support the multi-pronged efforts in quelling the coronavirus, the Gary Sinise Foundation, where I serve as CEO, is no different.
The Gary Sinise Foundation has been supporting military service members, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need since its founding in 2011. At the beginning of April, we launched Emergency COVID-19 Combat Service, which is a dedicated campaign that augments our mission by supporting medical workers serving at ground zero in the fight combating the deadly outbreak. Utilizing donations, we have issued grant funding to 57 first responder departments in 26 states to buy personal protective equipment (PPE) and other lifesaving gear.
At military installations here in the U.S. and overseas in Germany and South Korea, we are working alongside our partners facilitating drive-thru meal pick-ups for service members and their families.
In hard-hit emergency rooms in New York City and Los Angeles, and at medical centers nationwide, we continue to provide free meals to health care workers and staff. Fittingly, we call these meals Serving Heroes as they are a small token of appreciation on behalf of the American people for the courageous work and dedication these frontline heroes exhibit during this existential crisis.
But our work doesn’t stop there. Financial aid is reaching the households of veterans, first responders, those serving in the National Guard and Reserve forces, and families of fallen service members. Be it covering the cost of groceries and utility bills, moving costs, or rent and mortgage payments, we can offer relief to those in need.
Thanks to the generosity of countless donors, we can maintain the integrity of our mission while stepping up the cadence of support to reach an even larger population affected by COVID-19.
For our tireless efforts, the silver lining is being a bearer of hope for those we serve. It is the sigh of relief of a Gold Star spouse with children at home upon receiving a grocery gift card and rental assistance. It is the unburdened shoulders of a primary caregiver of a veteran with severe medical needs, who can afford to pay the bills and keep the lights on at home after receiving financial aid.
It is hope that emanates from the smiles and experience of momentary peace by medical workers after a long shift in the trenches of the fight, sitting among each other while enjoying a hearty meal. And it is the confidence of hope by firefighters, paramedics, EMTs and law enforcement receiving the gear they need to get the job done.
Service-based nonprofits and charities have an outsized role to play in flattening the curve. By enlisting their workforce and allocating resources to where it is needed most, no matter how big or small the effort, the difference may be life-saving.
The road to recovery may be long, but it is reachable as the country begins to reopen. The fight being waged against COVID-19 is a finite crisis, not a protracted conflict.
By working together in solidarity, this will be our finest hour.
Robin Rand is CEO of the Gary Sinise Foundation. Brandon Black is a copywriter at the Foundation.