Every year, Virginia Tech employees donate to charities across the New River Valley and Virginia through the Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign (CVC). This year has presented unique challenges due to COVID-19. The pandemic has affected charities and their ability to help communities in need.

“Donations have fallen off since COVID-19,” said Sara Bohn, executive director of the United Way of the New River Valley. “These nonprofits also typically hold big fundraisers, but they can’t hold them right now due to the pandemic. The inability to hold their regular events and fewer donations are causing them to struggle right now. Donations are not meeting the high demands of the community.”

Terry Smusz, chief executive officer of New River Community Action, said they have faced many challenges during COVID-19.

“New River Community Action is seeing requests for help from people who have never had to ask for services before. A husband and wife came to us because they both lost their job due to the pandemic. This was the first time their family had to ask for help,” said Smusz.

New River Community Action (NRCA) promotes and supports the well-being and self-reliance of individuals, families, and communities. NRCA develops a variety of programs that prevent and alleviate poverty to improve the lives of low-income individuals and families such as the emergency assistance, food pantries, and more.

Dora Butler, program manager of Radford-Fairlawn Daily Bread, said they switched from dining-in services to takeout meals and an Emergency Meal Box delivery system. They served more than 23,000 meals in the first nine months of 2020, including 1,250 food boxes, with food for up to 8,350 meals. Prepared meals and nonperishable foods are distributed to seniors, individuals with disabilities, and struggling families in the Radford and Fairlawn areas.

“Due to COVID-19, our demand for meals has increased while food donations have decreased. The amount of money we have spent this year on food and supplies for the community has increased significantly from $5,500 in 2019 to over $20,000,” said Butler.

The CVC will be critical this year for the Radford-Fairlawn Daily Bread in that the donations given will help them meet the increased need in the community. Funds from the CVC will help pay for those meals and food supplies.

Radford-Fairlawn Daily Bread administers two free meal programs that serve Radford and Fairlawn, Virginia, with the help of volunteers and the Virginia Tech Campus Kitchen.

Laura Beth Weaver, executive director of the Women’s Resource Center, said “COVID-19 has forced us to rethink how we provide support to sexual and domestic violence victims. It is important for the victim to have a positive relationship with their counselor, and it is important for their healing. When we are not able to be in person, it changes how those relationships happen. Technology is great, but nothing meets needs the same way as having someone in the same room interacting in person.

“While the pandemic changed how we provided services, we never stopped. Our shelter, counseling, advocacy, and education services all continued. Because the violence did not stop, our services didn’t stop, and, gratefully, community support continues as well,” said Weaver.

Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley is a nonprofit, human service organization, providing programs and services to adult and children victims of sexual and domestic violence in the New River Valley.

Collectively, each and every donation – no matter the amount – makes an impact with all these charities. Following are some examples of the difference a $5 donation can make. 

“Five dollars a week can help provide food for a family of six. Five dollars can provide diapers for almost a month. It can provide a custom literacy program for three months and one mental health counseling session. Every dollar makes a difference. These charities use every dollar,” said Bohn.

For New River Community Action, $5 can help provide a meal to one or many of their programs such as the Blacksburg Interfaith Food Pantry.

“The cost per meal at Radford-Fairlawn Daily Bread is $2.42. A $5 donation provides two meals for a neighbor,” said Butler.

A $5 gas card helps victims of sexual violence get to their center for assistance. “It is not a single $5 donation; it is hundreds of people donating $5 that adds up and makes a difference,” said Weaver.

How can Virginia Tech employees help local charities during these unprecedented times? Consider a donation so that charities like these can continue helping the members of our communities that are in need. 

There are many ways to donate including payroll deduction through a one-time gift or monthly payments, cash or check, credit card payment through cvcgives.org (using the agency code 208 – Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University), or using a monetary direct give payment through the direct give form to receive credit for donating to a CVC-approved charity and Virginia Tech’s direct giving.

This year’s campaign runs until Friday, Dec. 11, and the university’s goal is $370,000. More information about the campaign can be found on the CVC website.

- Written by Kayo Tanzawa Kim, May 2021, Human Resource Management