Nonprofits helped San Diegans during the pandemic. Let’s help them at Thanksgiving

Nonprofits helped San Diegans during the pandemic. Let’s help them at Thanksgiving.
O’side Kitchen Collaborative volunteers Robert Johnson, right, and Kier Ceballos load prepared dinners into boxes before loading the boxes into vehicles for delivery to senior communities at the O’side Kitchen Collaborative on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 in Oceanside, California. (Photo Credit: Hayne Palmour IV/Hayne Palmour IV/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

As someone who lived in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for seven years, on every Nov. 19, I pause to remember President Abraham Lincoln’s shortest and arguably most profound speech: his address memorializing the deadliest battle of the Civil War. While seven score and 17 years have passed since Lincoln delivered his remarks, I cannot help but reflect on his poignant words. And while the circumstances are vastly different, that president’s call for action remains relevant in this moment. There is still a “great task remaining before us,” and we must all come together to get through this.

As our country faces a worsening pandemic and greater racial and cultural divide, it is important that we remember that we are stronger together and will only heal when we do so as one. That’s why I find hope and encouragement in the work of our nonprofit community this holiday season.

Nonprofit organizations are going above and beyond, while their staff members put in long hours, all in an effort to make San Diego County a place of promise and prosperity for all. Since the beginning of the year, we have witnessed nonprofits stepping up in new and innovative ways to meet the moment.

Recognizing that many local hospitals and care facilities were experiencing nursing shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while at the same time so many San Diegans faced unemployment, Nile Sisters launched LearnMore, a training program designed as an accelerated nurse assistant training course for candidates seeking nurse assistant certification by the state of California. The effort focuses on providing opportunities to hard-to-reach and underrepresented populations who want to develop new skills for in-demand health care careers.

Similarly, Vallie Gilley was looking to create a zero-waste, sustainability catering business when she opened O’side Kitchen Collaborative with a mission of raising awareness about food waste. When the pandemic hit though, O’side Kitchen Collaborative had to pivot, and fast. Fueled by grant support from the city of Oceanside, The San Diego Foundation and others, the nonprofit took rescued food and distributed more than 250,000 meals in the first four months of the pandemic alone. On top of that, the organization hired furloughed restaurant employees to assist in the work.

These two stories are just the tip of the iceberg. Throughout San Diego County, nonprofits have been catalysts for hope during some of our darkest moments.

Back in March, when The San Diego Foundation established the COVID-19 Community Response Fund, we knew that the nonprofit sector would be a significant driver of relief and recovery. Now, more than eight months later, that couldn’t be more accurate. But still of great concern are the more than 800 applications for $61 million in grant requests from nonprofits grappling with the impacts of the pandemic on our communities and their own organizations.

Even as San Diego County nonprofit organizations face revenue and operational challenges, they remain steadfast in their commitment to this historic crisis. In order to continue helping communities impacted by the pandemic and its inequitable impacts, local nonprofits need our help.

This holiday season, I encourage you to act on your thankfulness by supporting organizations responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and other San Diego needs.

Giving Tuesday, which falls on Dec. 1, next Tuesday, is an inspiring day of charitable giving and commitment to something greater than ourselves as we each recognize through a generous donation that together we can create a just, equitable and resilient region.

My favorite sentence from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.” Together, we can strive to finish the work that allows everyone who lives in our region to thrive, prosper and feel like they belong right here.

This article first appeared in The San Diego Union~Tribune


About Mark Stuart, CFRE

Mark A. Stuart

As President & CEO, Mark reports to and collaborates with the Board of Governors and is responsible for developing and managing relationships with a wide range of stakeholders as well as for the operating health of The Foundation. Mark’s career has been devoted to helping donors realize their hopes, dreams and aspirations. Prior to joining The Foundation, Mark managed a staff of 64 and a budget of $14 million at San Diego Zoo Global (SDZG), including development, membership, and government and community relations.

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