When Disaster Strikes, Community Foundations Help the Helpers

The onset of the war in Ukraine spurred a worldwide outpouring of compassion for the millions of children and families uprooted by the violence.

That outpouring included Orange County residents.

Ed Carpenterfounder of a well-known Irvine company that helps source capital for and builds banks, has long been involved in the International Medical Corps (IMC), where he is associate chairman. He’s proud that IMC got a noteworthy shoutout in the New York Times as being one of four organizations that are “especially worthy” of donations for their work in Ukraine.

“To meet the needs of Ukrainians displaced by the conflict, the organization plans to increase its presence in the country, focusing in particular on mental healthcare and access to food and water,” the Times wrote in March.

When the war broke out, the Orange County Community Foundation (OCCF) researched nonprofits that were serving most effectively on the ground in Ukraine. We identified organizations with long-term relationships and expertise in the affected areas, and that were meeting critical gaps in service related to the crisis.

The International Medical Corps, which deploys medical teams to provide emergency and primary healthcare including mental health and social services, was among the nonprofits we recommended to our donors.

A few of the other vital organizations on the front lines in Ukraine include:

USA for UNHCR: Works with authorities, the United Nations, and other partners in Ukraine to provide humanitarian assistance and serve as the lead agency in Poland on refugee response.

Razom for Ukraine: Provides critical medical supplies and amplifies the voices of the people of Ukraine during the war.

Save the Children: Supports Ukrainian families impacted by the crisis, including nearly 7.5 million children at risk of severe emotional distress and displacement.

Catholic Relief Services: Leading provider of humanitarian efforts in Ukraine including transportation, shelter, food, and psychological support to displaced families in 20 shelters around the border.

As a result of this effort, OCCF donors collectively contributed more than $300,000 in the first few weeks of the war to help those in greatest need in Ukraine.

A Versatile Partner

Community foundations like OCCF serve as a knowledgeable and versatile partner for local philanthropists, partnering with individuals, families, foundations and businesses to fulfill charitable objectives in Orange County, across the country or around the world.

When disaster strikes across the globe, as in Ukraine, OCCF brings clarity, focus and wisdom for effective giving.

When a crisis hits close to home, you’ll find us on the front lines of need, marshalling resources and relationships in support of our local nonprofit sector.

As the 2008 financial crisis hit locally, OCCF accelerated support for nonprofits reeling from a twofold catastrophe—a steep decline in charitable contributions coupled with surging needs among those suffering the loss of jobs, housing and medical care. In response, OCCF doubled down on our discretionary grantmaking while launching a countywide giving campaign to mobilize donors in support of our neighbors in greatest need.

We repeated this central role when the pandemic emerged in 2020, partnering with fellow OC funders in the early days of the crisis to launch a collaborative pandemic response fund. With OCCF’s leadership and support, the OC Community Resilience Fund raised and deployed more than $4.3 million in less than six weeks through grants to 164 local nonprofits serving those hardest hit by the pandemic, including HEAVEN, KCS Health Center and Second Harvest Food Bank.

Relief and Recovery

In disaster preparedness, planning and organizing are key.

To ensure that Orange County is ready in a time of need, OCCF provided $25,000 in seed funding to OneOC to develop a strategic plan for Orange County’s Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD-OC).

COAD-OC is a collective of community leaders, businesses and nonprofits that proactively plan for a range of potential emergency and disaster situations. Charitable Ventures, 2-1-1 OCSecond Harvest Food Bank, Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the American Red Cross OC Chapter serve on the COAD-OC executive committee.

COAD-OC proved essential to local nonprofits’ response to the pandemic, with members deploying more than 11,500 volunteers to deliver front-line services including hunger relief, housing, financial assistance, personal protective equipment and educational support for youth. The same organizing framework will be activated in the case of a wildfire, earthquake or other natural disaster, ensuring that Orange County is ready to meet whatever challenges may lie ahead.

While we hate to imagine Orange County in the throats of a natural disaster or human tragedy, we know what is most essential in a time of crisis are the helpers.

And helping the helpers is what community foundations do best, mobilizing philanthropy and finding the most effective ways to move communities forward, whether an emergency hits close to home or a world away, as with Ukraine. OCCF is privileged and proud to be Orange County’s community foundation, and we will be here for good, for ever—especially when we are needed most.

Editor’s Note: Shelley Hoss is CEO and president of the Orange County Community Foundationthe largest entity on the Business Journal’s most recent list of nonprofits in Orange County.

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