CHATHAM – When the call went out, local residents answered, contributing more than half a million dollars to help neighbors suffering financially due to the pandemic.
After distributing most of that money, the Chatham Coronavirus Impact Fund (CCIF) is winding down and will phase out March 19.
“We had a goal, we had a mission, we had a focus on trying to get assistance to those in need,” said Stephen Daniel, who founded the fund with his wife, Mary Beth.
Between last April, when the fund was established, and March 5, the CCIF distributed $478,792 to year-round Chatham residents. The assistance “touched” Chatham residents 1,162 times, according to Daniel, helping 554 adults, 483 children, and 125 seniors.
When the community went into lockdown last March, the Daniels realized that many of the people they would usually see working around town – housecleaners, landscapers, shop and restaurant workers – would be without a means of support. After discuss the idea of providing limited financial assistance to these year-round residents with others, they established the fund, gathered together an advisory board, then seeded the effort with a $30,000 donation. To ensure that the money went to those most deserving, they enlisted the Lower Cape Outreach Council to vet applications, and worked with local nonprofit Monomoy Community Services to identify those most in need and handle the money.
The fund ended up raising $524,598, which helped applicants pay for rent, mortgages, utilities, auto payments and insurance, phone bills and home insurance. The fund didn't cover food, since area food pantries had geared up to respond to the pandemic. However, it did support the Chatham Elementary School food pantry last summer, helping to feed 570 people.
February saw the highest distribution from the fund, just slightly exceeding last June. A total of $83,733 went to 54 adults, 46 kids and 15 seniors; the 43 applications received last month was the third highest since April and 33 percent above the monthly average, according to Daniel.
The assistance reached into many segments of Chatham, said Monomoy Community Services Director Theresa Malone, touching almost every industry and business – retail, restaurants, fishing and the self-employed. “There was no real stand out,” she said.
The fund was designed as a finite entity; there was never an intention to complete with local nonprofit agencies, Daniel said. It was initially slated to close down Dec. 31, with the possibility of a six-month extension. With vaccine distribution going full steam ahead, the pending stimulus payments and plans in place for reopening the economy, which will allow those in many of the industries the fund benefitted to go back to work, “it seemed to be a good time to do what we said we were going to do, which is to go out of business,” he said.
Daniel said he was “absolutely satisfied” with the CCIF's results and “astonished” at the amount of money the fund raised.
“The big story here is the community, and Monomoy Community Services and the Lower Cape Outreach Council,” he said. To thank the agencies for their help, each will receive a donation of $7,500 from the remaining funds.
“It certainly won't begin to compensate them for everything they've done on behalf of the initiative, but at least it's a way of acknowledging how much they've done,” Daniel said. The remaining $16,000 will cover applications that come in over the next week, he said. Any donations that arrive after the fund phases out will be given to MCS to continue similar work, he said.
“We still are a small, seaside fishing village,” he said, alluding to the spirit of the community. “It was on real display in the last 12 months with the fund.”